GENEVA President Bush's decision to pull out of a global warming agreement drew withering condemnation Friday, with world leaders calling the withdrawal "unacceptable" and editorial writers slamming the president's "in-your-face truculence."
The World Council of Churches said the U.S. announcement backing away from the 1997 Kyoto agreement on controlling emission of greenhouse gases was a "betrayal of their responsibilities as global citizens."
The Portuguese daily Publico said Bush acted "with the arrogance of someone who thinks he owns the world."
"History will not judge George Bush kindly," declared Britain's Independent newspaper. "It is not even isolationism, it is in-your-face truculence."
The Guardian newspaper chimed in: "Suddenly, in the space of two short months, America, the 'indispensable nation,' begins to resemble the ultimate rogue state."
The London-based Financial Times noted that Bush's father when president signed the U.N. Framework Convention on Global Warming in 1992. "Since then the temperature has risen," it said.
Bush administration officials announced Wednesday that they would not implement the Kyoto treaty, under which countries agreed to legally binding targets for curbing heat-trapping greenhouse gases, which are mainly carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels. While Bush opposed the Kyoto treaty during his campaign, he did endorse limiting carbon dioxide emissions a position he has since reversed.
Critics contend a U.S. withdrawal would probably doom the pact. For Japan the host of the Kyoto meeting it was seen as a particular snub.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori appealed to Bush to show leadership to combat global warming at international talks in Germany in July.
"Japan hopes the United States will exert strong leadership for resolving such an important issue facing the international community," Mori said.
French President Jacques Chirac departed from his written text to the U.N. Human Rights Commission, calling the U.S. move "disturbing and unacceptable" and pleading with Bush for a reversal although he didn't name names.
"I solemnly appeal to all states, especially industrialized ones, to implement the Kyoto Protocol fully and immediately," Chirac said. "At a time of global warming and of a disturbing and unacceptable challenge to the Kyoto Protocol . . . how can we affirm the right to a protected and preserved environment, the right of future generations?"
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder tried in vain Thursday to persuade Bush to change his mind.
In Washington, Bush defended his stance by saying stricter limits now on greenhouse gas emissions could worsen energy shortages plaguing parts of the country.
Bush's announcement received support from Mexico, which like many developing countries had argued that the greenhouse gas reduction goals unfairly limited growth in their nations.
"We understand the U.S. position," said Victor Lichtinger, Mexico's environment secretary. "We can't try to go too fast" on reducing emissions, he said, "because that means at some point we have to retreat."
U.S. opposition to the Kyoto Protocol prevented environment ministers from 34 Western Hemisphere nations from reaching an agreement on how to stem global warming after two days of talks in Montreal.
The final statement from the meeting said "there was not full consensus on this issue," and 26 Latin American and Caribbean countries made clear they disagreed with the U.S. position.
"Countries can't move forward on the issue of climate change without the United States," said Venezuelan Environment Minister Ana Elisa Osorio Granado.
Withering criticism came in the Bangkok Post.
"Kyoto gets the Bush kiss of death," read a headline.
"This is his way of saying to the other negotiating partners: 'You all go ahead and talk without us, boys. We'll do whatever is necessary to eat well and live well, and the heck with the rest of the world,"' a commentary in the paper said.