London (CNSNews.com) - Europe reacted with deep concern Thursday to reports that President Bush was effectively abandoning a 1997 international treaty against global warming, which would require developed nations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Just last week the European Union declared the issue an "integral part" of its relations with the United States.
EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstroem in a statement expressed anxiety about Bush's stance, and said the 15-member EU was committed to implementing the Kyoto Protocol. A senior EU delegation will visit Washington next week to urge the administration not to dump the treaty.
The German government said Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder would use the occasion of his meeting with Bush in Washington Thursday to urge Bush to reconsider.
Bush said at a press conference ahead of his meeting with Schroeder he would explain his decision to the German leader.
"We'll be working with Germany, we'll be working with our allies to reduce greenhouse gases," he said. "But I will not accept anything that will harm our economy and hurt our American workers."
The Frankfurter Rundschau daily said there was a growing clash of interests between Europe and the U.S., over issues such as Kyoto, as well as the American ballistic missile defense proposals.
In London, Environment Minister Michael Meacher told British television it was "almost unthinkable" for the U.S. not to be part of the Kyoto agreement, in terms of which industrialized nations agreed to limit their emission of so-called greenhouse gases, produced by the burning of fossil fuels.
Many scientists believe an increase in these gases is causing "global warming": The sun's ultraviolet rays are reflected from the earth as infrared radiation. Greenhouse gases absorb the infrared rays in the atmosphere, an effect proponents say will lead to an increase in the earth's surface temperature.
"[Global warming] is the most dangerous and fearful challenge to humanity over the next 100 years," Meacher said.
Some scientists disagree, and thousands have put their names to a statement saying: "There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth."
The treaty negotiated in Kyoto, Japan in 1997 was signed by President Clinton the following year, but never ratified by the Senate.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Wednesday that the treaty was not in the economic interests of the U.S. to implement. The U.S. would seek an alternative that would involve the whole world.
Under Kyoto, industrialized nations agreed to reduce global emissions by 2012. For its part the U.S. - which environmentalists say produce 25 per cent of the world's greenhouse gases - would have to cuts its emissions in that time by about one-third.
Fleischer said the president opposed Kyoto because it did not bind developing nations to curb their emissions. Only 39 industrialized countries have quotas, but fast-developing countries like India and China may one day produce emissions that rival those of the U.S.
Concerned reaction to the U.S. stance also came from Japan, Australia and some Pacific islands. Scientists supportive of the greenhouse effect theory believe rising sea levels and severe weather patterns may be the result of global warming.
The environmental group Friends of the Earth (Europe) called the U.S. decision "shabby" and claimed that "the world is tottering on the brink of climate disaster."
U.N. talks aimed at finding ways of implementing Kyoto are due to resume in Bonn, Germany in July. The U.S. is still expected to send representatives to the gathering, an administration spokesman was quoted as saying Wednesday.
The Kyoto Protocol will come into effect only when nations representing 55 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions have ratified it. To date only one of the 39 nations with quotas - Romania - has done so.
Scientists Say Global Warming Theory is a Lot of Hot Air (30 May 2000)