Russia announced Tuesday it will ratify an accord on reducing smokestack emissions and other causes of global warming. Moscow's approval would clear the way for the agreement to become law in much of the world - but not the United States.
Russia's promise on the agreement, which the United States has rejected, came as leaders at the World Summit wrapped up a long-term blueprint for tackling the global woes of poverty and pollution. Attention at the summit shifted to immediate crises, including Iraq.
Ahead of the arrival of US Secretary of State Colin Powell, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz sought support from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and former South African President Nelson Mandela for heading off a threatened U.S. attack.
Annan urged Aziz to comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions, which call for the unconditional return of weapons inspectors to Iraq, his spokeswoman said.
The United States continued to be criticized for its rejection of the Kyoto Protocol, which requires developed nations to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases to 1990 levels by 2012. Many countries view the accord as crucial to reversing a global warming trend blamed for cataclysmic storms, floods and droughts worldwide.
"All countries around the world need to address the questions of environmental protection ... under the same rules," said Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
U.S. Environmental Protection Administrator Christie Whitman said the United States supported other countries' ratification of the deal. But she said the agreement was not appropriate for the United States, which is taking other action to limit climate change.
Russia's ratification of Kyoto would meet the last requirement for the accord to come into effect: that the countries on board account for at least 55 percent of carbon dioxide emissions based on 1990 output.
Once that happens, the nations that have accepted it - 87 so far - would be required by law to start reducing the carbon dioxide and other gases pumped out by factories, cars and other sources thought to trap heat in the atmosphere, warming the Earth.
The United States, which rejected the accord last year, would not face the requirements, which the Bush administration says would set back the U.S. economy.
Among the main industrialized nations, Australia and Canada are also holdouts, though Canada promised Monday to put the accord before its Parliament this year.
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov did not say exactly when Moscow would ratify, frustrating Kyoto's U.N. and European backers, who had hoped for a commitment to get it done this year.
"Russia has signed the Kyoto Protocol and now we are preparing for its ratification," Kasyanov said. "That ratification will occur in the very near future."
The promise comes after much wavering by Moscow.
Russia, whose industry - and pollution - has declined dramatically since 1990, had hoped to benefit greatly from Kyoto mechanisms that allow those who come in under their emissions quota to sell the right to pollute to other nations.
But the United States, as the biggest polluter, was expected to be the biggest buyer.
Environmentalists said they suspected Russia was dragging its feet hoping to gain in other areas, such as increased financial aid or compensation for maintaining its vast forests as a "carbon sink."
Ecologists often describe forests and rain forests as the "lungs of the planet," absorbing carbon dioxide and transmitting oxygen to the atmosphere.
(Xinhua News Agency Spetember 4, 2002)