BRUSSELS, Belgium — European officials warned President Bush on Thursday that relations with the rest of the world could suffer if he sticks by a decision to pull out of an agreement on reducing global warming.
"This isn't some marginal environmental issue that can be ignored or played down," European Union Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstroem said at a news conference. "It has to do with trade and economics."
Bush administration officials announced Wednesday that they would not implement the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, under which countries agreed to legally binding targets for curbing greenhouse gas emissions. The move reversed a position Bush took during last year's presidential campaign.
Bush defended his decision during a news conference Thursday in Washington. "I will not accept a plan that will harm our economy and hurt American workers," Bush said.
Calling the Bush announcement "exceptionally serious," British Environment Minister Michael Meacher said it could have repercussions in other areas.
"We are talking about a trans-Atlantic and global foreign policy issue," he said in London.
While stressing it was too soon to discuss "tactics to punish 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.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is expected to urge Bush not to back off the accord when he meets with him in Washington later Thursday.
Others are already suggesting counter-measures, ranging from an e-mail blitz of the White House to pickets outside Exxon, Texaco or Chevron gas stations. Others have suggested the EU could hold up resolution of trans-Atlantic trade disputes.
The Greens group in the European Parliament called for a consumer boycott of U.S. oil companies.
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." -->
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.
Europe is not opposed to Washington's insistence that measures adopted to reduce greenhouse gas emissions be "cost-effective," Wallstroem said.
"We are ready to move, but we don't want to let the Americans off the hook," she said. "We want to see that they actually meet their commitments."
A withdrawal by the United States — which emits 20 percent of the world's carbon dioxide, the main climate changing gas — would likely doom the Kyoto protocol, hashed out over years with more than 100 countries.
"This is outrageous and sabotages many years of hard work," Sweden's environment minister Kjell Larsson was quoted saying by news agency TT.
In Tokyo, Japanese Environment Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said she would "try to make the United States understand the importance of the protocol" so that it can go into effect as planned next year.