Moscow The Russian Cabinet approved ratification of the Kyoto Protocol on Thursday, a decisive step that effectively sets the stage for worldwide enactment of the landmark global warming accord after years of diplomatic wrangling.
Reached in 1997 after two years of talks, the pact calls for the world's industrialized countries to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming. Proponents still need backing from Russia's parliament, both chambers of which are controlled by Russian President Vladimir Putin's loyalists, who are expected to fall in line with Thursday's decision.
With the United States' refusal to endorse the pact, Russia's ratification was needed for the accord to become effective.
The treaty needs to be approved by no fewer than 55 industrial countries that cumulatively represent at least 55 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. The United States represents 36 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, and its rejection of the pact left Russia as the only other industrial polluter large enough to push the treaty over the 55 percent threshold.
"Today's decision was historic," said Georgy Safanov, director of the Russian Regional Environment Center and a longtime advocate of the pact. "Human beings affect climate, and there is just one way to prevent this: a global initiative on reducing our impact on climate."
Klaus Toepfer, chief of the U.N. Environment Program, called the Russian government's decision a "cause for celebration. ... I hope other nations, some of whom like Russia have maybe been in the past reluctant to ratify, will now join us in this truly global endeavor."