Global Outcry

Global warming graphic image, 020404, GD
AP
World leaders are warning George W. Bush that America's global relationships could suffer if the U.S. pulls out of the Kyoto agreement on reducing global warming. And Mr. Bush's latest anti-environmental policy move spawned a flood of angry editorials worldwide this week.

"This isn't some marginal environmental issue that can be ignored or played down," said EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstroem.

But the Bush administration, seen worldwide as friendly to big oil, says the decision to pull out of the international treaty is "unequivocal."

In a new diplomatic initiative, the European Union said Friday it would send a mission to Russia, China, Iran and Japan to gauge support for the pact.

Newspapers across the globe slammed the Kyoto pullout, calling it a short-sighted and selfish kowtow to big energy on the part of the White House:

  • Britain's Guardian daily described the U.S. president's decision as a "Taliban-style act of wanton destruction," drawing a parallel with the recent destruction of ancient statues in Afghanistan that were deemed un-Islamic.
  • The Tokyo Shimbun, a metropolitan daily, slammed the "great-power greed" of a country of "mass production, mass consumption and mass waste." "The Bush administration's decision has confirmed the world's worst fears."
  • The French daily Liberation said: "It is at their risk and peril that the Americans forget that no country is an island which can live in ignorance of the rest of the world. And he who sows gas risks reaping, well before the climate warms, hostile opinions and an explosive diplomatic isolation."
  • Columnist Teresa de Sousa wrote in the Portuguese daily Publico: "It is not just the decision that is shocking... It is above all the brutal way in which it was announced; without the slightest discomfort, with the arrogance of those that think themselves owners of the earth."

    German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, after meeting Mr. Bush in the White House Thursday, said, "We agreed on practically everything except ... the Kyoto protocol."

    Nevertheless, Mr. Bush "does not support the Kyoto treaty. It is not in the United States' economic best interest," said spokesman Ari Fleischer.

    Environmentalists say the United States has just 6 percent of the world's population yet produces more than a quarter of the globe's greenhouse gases.

    The U.N. pact was agreed to in the Japanese city of Kyoto by former President Clinton and leaders of other industrialized countries, but it has not been ratified by the U.S. Senate.

    Calling Mr. Bush's announcement "exceptionally serious," British Environment Minister Michael Meacher also said it could have broad repercussions.

    "(Global warming) is the most dangerous and fearful challenge to humanity over the next 100 years," Meacher said.

    While stressing it was too soon to discuss "tactics to punsh the United States," Wallstroem said she will go to Washington next week with an EU delegation to seek clarification of the Bush administration's position.

    "I don't think this is the time to start to threaten, but we must be clear about the political implications," she said.

    Others already began suggesting steps to be taken, ranging from an e-mail blitz of the White House to pickets outside Exxon, Texaco or Chevron gas stations.

    The Greens group in the European Parliament called for a consumer boycott of U.S. oil companies, while a conservative British lawmaker suggested the EU could hold up resolution of trans-Atlantic trade disputes.

    The Bush Push
    In its first few months, the Bush administration has:

    held firm in its resolve to set aside a Clinton order that would sharply restrict logging in national forests

    announced it has no plans to implement the global warming treaty negotiated in Kyoto, Japan

    relaxed rules on the amount of arsenic allowed in drinking water

    reversed itself on a campaign pledge to restrict carbon dioxide emissions from power plants

    relaxed federal air pollution rules on the mixing of ethanol into gasoline in the Midwest

    held firm on its determination to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

    - Francie Grace

    "So when we are talking about their hormone-filled beef, or genetically modified foods, and the other things they are looking for, then we are going to have to say we have an agenda too," said John Gummer, a former British environment minister.

    Meacher said Europe has "a lot of leverage," but added that sanctions were not the answer.

    "I certainly don't think we should despair or try to ostracize the U.S. as a pariah," he said. "This is not the end of the story. There is clearly a power struggle going on in Washington and we have to keep hammering on."

    Bush administration officials announced Wednesday that they would not implement the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, under which countries areed to legally binding targets for curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

    Opposition in the U.S. Congress has focused on the lack of immediate targets for developing countries, including giants like India and China.

    European officials said they believed the Bush administration was also driven by worries over the worsening U.S. economy.

    "It is not acceptable that national economic worries mean that the world cannot act against a global threat," Danish Minister of Energy and Environment Svend Auken said, visibly angry.

    Signs of trouble emerged earlier this year, when Mr. Bush asked for more time to study the arguments for alternative fuel strategies and renewable technologies after the collapse of talks in the Netherlands last November.

    Fresh talks were scheduled for May in Bonn, Germany, but were then postponed until July.

    Europe is not opposed to Washington's insistence that measures adopted to reduce greenhouse gas emissions be "cost-effective," Wallstroem said.

    "At the same time, it's important not to allow them to dictate the whole process," she added. "We are ready to move, but we don't want to let the Americans off the hook. ... We want to see that they actually meet their commitments."

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