The White House signaled on Monday it could wait until 2010 for major climate change legislation to move through Congress as long as it fulfilled President Barack Obama's criteria for tackling global warming.

When asked when the president wished to see movement on a climate bill, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs left a time frame wide open.

If we had significant legislation that began to address climate change ... whether that's this year or next year I think both of us would agree that that's a big change that we would welcome, Gibbs said, referring to the president.

He said the bill would have to allow the United States to spend even more money investing in alternative energies to ensure the country was not adding to the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.

Obama has spent the first month of his young administration focusing on lifting the United States out of a deep recession. He has put forward proposals to shore up the financial industry and stem home foreclosures while promising action on health care reform.

Though investing in renewable energy is a key part of Obama's $787 billion stimulus bill, the administration has kept quiet about its other environmental goals for this year.

Obama backs aggressive cuts in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and supports the development of an emissions trading system, similar to the one in the European Union, that would cap the amount of carbon dioxide that factories can emit and allow them to trade permits to pollute more.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Tabassum Zakaria, Editing by Sandra Maler)