PARIS (AFP) - Leading players in talks to forge a pact for tackling climate change took the lash on Thursday to US President George W Bush's new blueprint for global warming, with one country mocking it as "Neanderthal". At a ministerial-level meeting of the world's major carbon emitters, South Africa blasted the Bush proposal as a disastrous retreat by the planet's number one polluter and a slap to poor countries. The European Union - which had challenged the US to follow its lead on slashing greenhouse-gas emissions by 2020 - voiced disappointment, delegates said. Germany accused Bush of turning back the clock to before last December's UN climate talks in Bali and even to before last July's G8 summit. In a statement entitled "Bush's Neanderthal speech," German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said: "His speech showed not leadership but losership. We are glad that there are also other voices in the United States." Bush's speech on Wednesday came at a key time in efforts to craft a new UN treaty for slashing the heat-trapping fossil-fuel gases that scientists fear will ravage Earth's climate system. The Bali talks yielded a two-year "roadmap" designed to culminate in a planetary deal that will tackle carbon emissions beyond 2013, after the present pledges in the Kyoto Protocol run out. Instead of setting a date for cutting US emissions, Bush had merely outlined a year - 2025 - by which the emissions would peak, they said. "There is no way whatsoever that we can agree to what the US is proposing," South African Environment and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said. "In effect, the US wants developing countries that already face huge poverty and development challenges to pay for what the US and other highly industrialised countries have caused over the past 150 years," he said. Jim Connaughton, heading the White House's Council on Environmental Quality, said this had been a "misreading" of what Bush had said, and hoped countries would focus on the practicalities of a deal rather than on the "rhetorical." UN climate chief Yvo de Boer added that he saw a positive contribution from Bush, in that by putting a proposal on the table, the US would spur real negotiations. The White House shrugged off "hot-blooded" critics of Bush's climate change policies, tarring them as political opportunists unserious about finding real solutions. "You're always going to see lots of hot-blooded reaction to anything said on climate, and so you should just be prepared for that," spokesman Tony Fratto told reporters. Fratto had been asked about Germany's blistering rejection of Bush's new blueprint, delivered in Wednesday remarks that Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel dismissed as "Bush's Neanderthal speech." "The easiest thing to do is to stand up and pronounce your commitment to some unachievable goal, and reap all of the short-term political benefit that that you would get for doing that," said Fratto. "The hard thing is to try to set aggressive but reasonable goals, and then doing the work to achieve it. And that's what we've done throughout this administration: We have actually set goals and met them," he added. "There are a lot of countries around the world who have set goals and failed to meet them, for whatever reason either the goal is unachievable or they lack the political or economic or technological capability of meeting those goals," said the spokesman.