Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a bill ratifying the Kyoto Protocol aimed at fighting the problem of global warming. This means that the international treaty will soon take effect in spite of being rejected by the United States and Australia.
President Putin signed the Kyoto bill just days after both houses of Russia's parliament voted to formally ratify the agreement, which requires industrialized countries to gradually cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Mr. Putin will soon notify the United Nations of his action, and when that happens the protocol will take effect in 90 days.
The treaty's approval comes despite continued opposition from the United States and Australia, the only major industrialized nations to pull out of the treaty.
They argue the protocol will harm economic growth and unfairly exempt industrializing countries such as India and China.
Some Russian politicians used the same reasoning to argue against the pact. But Moscow came under strong pressure from the European Union, which strongly backs the accord.
A major incentive came in May when EU leaders pledged to support Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization if Moscow backed Kyoto.
Russia will also be able to sell "emission credits" to other countries whose emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide exceed their limits.
Russia is key in the accord's success. Moscow's approval means the agreement is supported by nations responsible for more than 55 percent of the world's greenhouse gases, the minimum threshold needed for the treaty to take effect.
The Kyoto protocol stipulates that industrialized nations have until the year 2012 to cut their emissions to 5% below levels that existed in 1990.
Scientists around the world generally agree that gases from factories and especially motor vehicles are trapped in the earth's atmosphere, leading to a gradual rise in global temperatures.
Numerous studies have shown this means sea levels will rise as ice in the polar regions slowly melts, creating major problems for island nations as well as coastal regions around the world.
But there are scientists who dispute this analysis, saying more research needs to be done.