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Russia said yesterday (3 September) that it will ratify the Kyoto Protocol, in a move that could see the climate change agreement come into force before the end of the year.

In an announcement on the penultimate day of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said his country planned to ratify the agreement "in the very near future".

The move follows a statement by Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien on Monday (2 September), saying that he would submit the protocol to his parliament for ratification.

At least 55 countries that are together responsible for 55 per cent of the industrialised world's carbon dioxide emissions (in 1990) have to ratify the Kyoto Protocol for it to come into effect.

The fate of the Protocol has been hanging in the balance since the United States — the world's biggest polluter — pulled out of the treaty. As of 30 August, 89 countries had ratified the agreement, including countries accounting for 37.25 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions.

Russia contributed 17.4 per cent of the world's emissions in 1990, so when it signs up to the Protocol, less than one per cent would remain before the treaty could come into full force. Ratification by both Russia and Canada — which contributed 3 per cent of emissions in 1990 — would take the treaty well over the required threshold.

"We are happy that the Russian Federation and most of the world has now accepted binding rules on how to mitigate global climate change," says Jonathan Lash, president of the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based environmental think tank.

Click here to see a list of those countries that have ratified the Kyoto Protocol

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