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Russia has today submitted its ratification of the Kyoto Protocols to the United Nations, meaning the treaty takes effect in 90 days, or February 16, 2005. Signatories to the pact are legally bound to meet their emissions targets, or face financial penalties. The only four industrialized countries not to sign the protocol are Australia, Liechtenstein, Monaco, and the United States.

Now that Kyoto is for real, it’s going to be very interesting to see how countries go about taking the cutbacks seriously and meeting their targets. Not all countries would find it as expensive as would the U.S.; Russia doesn’t have to make any cuts, for example, and Britain has been moving away from coal and should also find its targets easily met. European Union countries, on the other hand, will likely face more of a challenge; the EU reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 2.3 percent between 1990 and 2001, but has to reduce it by 8 percent from 1990 levels.

And the U.S., the world’s largest emitter? Now would be an excellent time for the Bush administration, which likes to say it takes the climate change situation seriously, to reopen negotiations and find a mitigation path it can live with. Because international tensions over the issue are only going to grow now that compliance is coming into effect.

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