WASHINGTON - World Wildlife Fund hailed Japan's decision today to ratify the Kyoto Protocol as a "welcome and essential step" towards turning the climate treaty into international law this year.
The decision by the Japanese Cabinet follows six months of internal debate and was taken in the face of opposition from influential sections of Japan's business community.
"This is a welcome and essential step that puts global responsibility above special interest appeals," said Jennifer Morgan, Director of WWF's Climate Change Program. "As the largest industrial emitter of gases that cause global warming, the United States also needs to act responsibly and put in place strong domestic policies that meet or beat its Kyoto Protocol targets."
Japan is the fourth largest emitter of carbon dioxide (CO2) - a heat-trapping gas released by burning fossil fuels and the main cause of global warming - after the United States, the European Union and Russia. For the Kyoto treaty to become international law, it must be ratified by at least 55 countries and by industrialized nations that emitted at least 55 percent of the industrialized world's CO2 in 1990. Although the United States has rejected Kyoto, the treaty will enter into force if, at a minimum, it is ratified by the EU, Russia, Japan and either Canada or Poland. The EU deposited its ratification instruments on May 31 in New York, while Russia's Cabinet supported ratification on April 11.
Japan's decision comes on the heels of a recent report by the Bush Administration in which the Administration concedes that human actions cause global warming. Despite recognition of the problem, the potential for wide-scale disaster and the availability of solutions, the Administration still has not put forward an effective solution. The United States' inaction on climate change stands in stark contrast to the building momentum among other nations to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and combat global warming.