UNITED NATIONS — In a big boost to the global fight against climate change, the 15 nations in the European Union formally ratified the Kyoto Protocol on Friday and urged the United States to end its opposition to the treaty.
The European Union has been in the forefront of the campaign to cut pollution that is warming the planet and the simultaneous ratifications by its members represented a major step toward the treaty’s entry into force.
The ceremony also highlighted the Bush administration’s isolation as the only announced opponent of the 1997 accord. One by one, envoys from the 15 EU members presented the documents of ratification from their governments to U.N. legal adviser Hans Corell in the main press room at U.N. headquarters.
EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom, who handed over a separate ratification from the organization itself, hailed the “historic moment for global efforts to combat climate change” and pointedly singled out the United States as the only country to reject the treaty.
To take effect, the Kyoto accord must be ratified by 55 countries, but the ratifications must also include industrialized nations responsible for at least 55 percent of the 1990 levels of greenhouse gases blamed for heating up the atmosphere.
The EU boosted the number of ratifications to about 70, topping the minimum needed, and pushed the treaty about halfway to the goal of 55 percent of the greenhouse gas pollution levels for it to enter into force.
The EU, whose members produced 24.2 percent of emissions in 1990, represented the first major industrialized bloc to ratify the treaty. Before Friday, the vast majority of countries that had ratified were developing countries.
The Kyoto Protocol was signed by the Clinton administration, but never ratified by the U.S. Senate. President Bush backed out of it last year, saying it would have cost the U.S. economy $400 billion and 4.9 million jobs.
“The European Union urges the United States to reconsider its position and to return to and participate in the global framework for addressing climate change that this protocol provides,” Wallstrom said.
Bush unveiled an alternative proposal to the Kyoto accord in February which he said would reduce greenhouse gases, curb pollution and promote energy efficiency. But Wallstrom argued that it will lead instead “to a significant increase of more than 30 percent above 1990 levels” of greenhouse gas emissions by 2012.
With the United States, which was responsible for 36.1 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in 1990, opting out of the treaty, the EU said the support of Japan, which was responsible for 8.5 percent, and Russia, which was responsible for 17.4 percent, is crucial.
The EU is pushing for the treaty to enter into force by the time the U.N. World Summit on Sustainable Development begins in Johannesburg in late August.
Japan is expected to ratify next week but Wallstrom said Russia’s parliament may not ratify until the fall.
The Kyoto Protocol aims to cut global emissions by 5.2 percent from their 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. The EU must cut its emissions by 8 percent.