A forceful endorsement

A forceful endorsement in a move that is likely to clear the air on the intentions of key signatories, Japan and all the 15 member-states of the European Union (eu) have ratified the Kyoto Protocol. The international treaty seeks to cut the emission of greenhouse gases. Both the groups have urged the us to reconsider its decision of rejecting the protocol last year.

Terming the recent ratifications as "good news for the entire world', un secretary-general Kofi Annan has called upon other countries to follow suit to ensure that the protocol comes into force soon. For the Kyoto Protocol to become international law, it must be ratified by at least 55 countries (see box: Tracking emissions ). The nations that ratify must reduce emission of carbon dioxide (co2) to an average of 5.2 per cent below 1990 levels during the stipulated five-year periodfrom 2008 to 2012.

Though 84 nations have signed the protocol and 74 have ratified it so far, their emissions account for only 35.8 per cent of the industrialised countries' total emissions as against the stipulated 55 per cent. Russia, whose cabinet supported ratification on April 11, 2002, is likely to hop aboard by the end of the year.

The European Commission and representatives from the 15 eu countries gave in papers at the un headquarters in New York, signifying their approval of the protocol. eu environment commissioner Margot Wallstrom called the ceremony "a historic moment for global efforts to combat climate change'. Calling on the us to rethink its position, she was quoted as saying: "The United States is the only nation to have spoken out against and rejected the global framework for addressing climate change. All countries have to act, but the industrialised world has to take the lead.'

Close on the heels of the eu ratification, Japan too took the plunge by signing the treaty. The decision by the Japanese cabinet was preceded by six months of internal debate and was taken in the face of opposition from influential sections of Japan's business community. "This is a very welcome and essential step that puts global responsibility above short-term economic considerations,' said Jennifer Morgan, director, World Wide Fund for Nature (wwf), climate change programme. Japan is the fourth largest emitter of co2 (the major global warming gas) after the us, the eu and Russia. Japan has to cut its emissions by 6 per cent below 1990 levels by 2008-2012.

The eu as a bloc is on the right track to meet its target of reducing greenhouse gases by 8 per cent from 1990 levels, but some of its constituents are lagging behind on an individual level. For instance, emissions in Greece had reached 23.4 per cent by 2000 when it is only allowed to increase them to 25 per cent by the 1990 levels during 2008-2012. Emissions were already up by 33.7 per cent in 2000 in Spain too.

Though representatives from more than 100 countries, including the us, signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, us President George W Bush rejected it as harmful for the nation's economy in 2001. In the wake of the recent ratifications, international pressure is mounting on fence-sitters like Canada and Australia. Canada, especially, will find itself under pressure when it hosts the ensuing meeting of the group of eight (g-8) nations.

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