Russian government approves Kyoto; treaty now likely to go into effect

After years of mixed messages, coy feints, and internal drama, the Russian government at last approved the Kyoto Protocol today, virtually ensuring that the treaty will go into force worldwide by the end of the year. After the U.S. (responsible for 25 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions) rejected the treaty, its success or failure fell into Russia’s hands: To go into effect, it must be ratified by at least 55 percent of its signatories, which among them must account for at least 55 percent of the developed world’s greenhouse-gas emissions. With a 17 percent share of global emissions, Russia tipped the balance. Russian officials were sharply divided over the issue, with one side claiming ratification would devastate the nation’s economy, and the other claiming that global trade in carbon-dioxide emissions credits would be an economic windfall for the country. The treaty now goes to the Russian parliament, where its ratification is almost a certainty. This would leave the U.S. and Australia as the only major Kyoto holdouts in the developed world.