With the Kyoto Protocol taking effect on Wednesday, mankind has finally taken a decisive step forward to safeguarding the planet by curbing global warming.
It is time for modest celebration.
The treaty on climate change promises to deliver great benefits for every member in the global village, no matter whether his or her government having signed it or not. It has been signed by 141 nations.
More importantly, implementation of this pact, in itself, demonstrates a prevailing resolution the international community needs to make decisions on critical global issues.
The Kyoto Protocol is aimed at stemming global temperature rises. It requires rich nations to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by 5.2 percent of 1990 levels by 2008-12.
The unremitting efforts made by the countries to allow this protocol to take effect yesterday deserve our applause. It was their persistence that has helped the treaty survive the pulling out of the United States in 2001.
It has taken seven years for the protocol to win required backing from at least 55 countries and support from nations representing at least 55 percent of developed countries' carbon dioxide emissions to obtain legal force.
Yet, all the trouble the participants took to pass hurdles are worthwhile given the extreme significance of this deal in achieving mankind's development goals, especially for those developing countries.
Mounting climate-related disasters can undermine developing countries' attempts to fight poverty and raise people's living standards. And environmental deterioration will make economic growth more difficult to sustain for developing economies.
In a year the international community is to take stock of the progress toward the Millennium Development Goals. The Kyoto Protocol is just the boost the global villagers need to address those challenges facing the world.
As environmentally it may appear, the first legally binding global agreement to cut greenhouse gases, however, heralds far-reaching changes in world economic and political maps.
Though targets of gas emission cuts have so far been set only for rich countries, negotiations for a second period from 2013 is predicated to include similar efforts from more member countries.
Undoubtedly, the follow-up endeavor will depend on how swiftly and successfully the world will fulfill and go beyond the Kyoto Protocol.
The United States quit the 141-member Kyoto Protocol on the excuse that complying with the treaty will be too costly and that the global warming theory still needs scientific proof.
The negative impact of the US absence from the protocol on fighting global warming is obvious. As the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the United States' failure to reduce its gas emissions to below its 1990 level could nullify the global undertaking.
For China, the Kyoto Protocol spotlighted environmental challenges it must meet.
As the most populous country in the world and the second largest emitter, China has a huge stake in keeping its growth momentum in a sustainable way. Ongoing domestic debate on the viability of developing energy-consuming heavy industry as the pillar of the Chinese economy indicated increasing environmental awareness.
By advocating "scientific development," the Chinese government has also come to grips with the enormity of the environmental challenges it faces.
The Kyoto Protocol should be made to stand such a chance for China as well as other developing countries.
(China Daily February 17, 2005)