He did not say what the targets should be or how they should be met. The comments marked a shift in his earlier opposition to setting global goals to reduce the emissions that contribute to global warming.
His proposal came a week before the Group of Eight summit in Germany, where host German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she hoped to forge an agreement on climate change.
The president had rejected Merkel's proposal of setting a target of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), which essentially would cut emissions to half of 1990 levels by 2050, Bloomberg News reported.
Critics have said the Bush administration is lagging behind its allies, state officials and U.S. companies in addressing global warming.
But some allies of the president welcomed the comments, saying they marked real progress in getting the United States more involved in international efforts to address climate change.
"I think the important thing is -- for the first time America is saying it wants to be part of a global deal," British Prime Minister Tony Blair told Sky News.
President Bush said Thursday that his proposal would set up a "new framework" for reducing greenhouse gases in preparation for the 2012 expiration of the Kyoto Protocol on emissions.
The president pulled the United States out of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, largely because India and China weren't required to cut greenhouse gas emissions as other industrialized nations were. His plan would address this objection by including India and China in the global emissions reduction effort.
He also said the initiative would include industry leaders so that technology would be part of the overall plan.
"We need to harness the power of technology to help nations meet their growing energy needs while protecting the environment and addressing the challenge of global climate change," he said.
The plan, however, has its critics. National Environmental Trust President Philip Clapp said, "The White House is just trying to hide the fact that the president is completely isolated among the G-8 leaders by calling vaguely for some agreement next year, right before he leaves office."