PARIS - Fear of runaway global warming pushed 46 countries to line up Saturday behind France's appeal for a new environmental body that could single out - and perhaps police - nations that abuse the Earth.
"It is our responsibility. The future of humanity demands it," President Jacques Chirac said in an appeal to put the environment at the top of the world's agenda.
He spoke at a conference a day after the release in Paris of a grim report from the world's leading climate scientists and government officials that said global warming is so severe that it will "continue for centuries" and that humans are to blame.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's report sparked calls for fast, planet-wide action and was embraced by Europeans. A total of 46 countries agreed to pursue plans for the new organization, and to hold their first meeting in Morocco this spring.
But key world polluters - including the United States, China, India and Russia - steered clear.
Without naming the United States directly, Chirac expressed frustration that "some large countries, large rich countries, still must be convinced." They are "refusing to accept the consequences of their acts," he said.
Chirac, 74, is seeking to leave his mark on international affairs before he leaves office, likely in May, though his environmental record over 12 years as France's president is spotty.
Former Vice President Al Gore, whose documentary on the perils of global warming has garnered worldwide attention, cheered Chirac's efforts.
"We are at a tipping point," Gore said in recorded remarks shown at the conference. Friday's report was "yet another warning about the dangers we face. We must act, and act swiftly. ... Such action requires international cooperation."
Many questions remain about the proposed environment body, including whether it would have the power to enforce global climate accords.
Chirac's appeal says only that the body should "evaluate ecological damage" and "support the implementation of environmental decisions."
Many countries have failed to meet targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions laid out in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The United States has never ratified the pact.
In a published interview earlier this week, Chirac warned that the United States could face a carbon tax on its exports if it does not sign global climate accords.
"We have 700 multilateral environmental agreements, and none of them seem to work. Environmental institutions are extremely weak," said Cristian Maquieira, a Chilean government environment official, said,
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov said creating a new environment organization would require too much time and money. Instead, he urged expanding the powers of the existing U.N. Environment Program.
Several participants called for taxing actions that hurt the environment, or labeling products according to how ecologically clean they are.
U.S. economist Jeremy Rifkin urged governments, businesses and activists to work together to create a "post-carbon" era.
"Climate change is going to be more responsible for bringing about a borderless world than free trade," Rifkin said.