With the Russian government finally agreeing to sign on, the Kyoto Protocol on Global Warming will likely go into effect next year, despite lack of participation by the United States. The as-yet unimplemented 1997 United Nations treaty regulates the emissions of greenhouse gases by signatory nations.
As per its original charter, the Kyoto Protocol's emissions caps are only binding if adopted by countries representing at least 55 percent of the developed world's greenhouse gas emissions. Either Russia or the U.S. (or both) needed to agree to the terms of the treaty in order for it to take effect at all. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who pushed for adoption of the treaty last spring but faced internal opposition, announced his country's support for the plan last week.
"This is a huge success for the international fight against climate change," said Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission. "Putin has sent a strong signal of his commitment and sense of responsibility."
Meanwhile, President Bush continues to oppose signing onto the treaty out of concern about effects on the American economy. Furthermore, the Bush administration has stated that it believes the treaty terms to be unfair, as they require industrialized nations to curb emissions but do not place similar curbs on fast-developing countries like China and India. Instead of signing on, the White House is pushing for voluntary emissions and research into ways to sequester carbon. According to the Kyoto Protocol itself, the U.S. is responsible for 36 percent of global emissions of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas largely responsible for human-induced global warming.