President George W. Bush's opposition to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change -- a major irritant on his maiden presidential visit to Europe this week -- has underscored the importance of Russia and especially Japan.
"One of the main tasks in front of us is to get Japan on board," Svend Auken, the Danish energy and environment minister, said in Washington.
Auken, who spoke at the World Bank yesterday, echoed European Union (EU) leaders in asserting the goal would be to push forward with the Kyoto framework -- with or without the United States.
Activists welcomed the sentiment. "Placing the future of the climate in President Bush's hands is too risky a business to even be considered," said Jennifer Morgan, climate change campaign director at the World Wildlife Fund.
Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson said after EU leaders met Bush yesterday, "Kyoto is not meaningless without the United States, because it is just the first step."
"We have to go ahead, beyond Kyoto," Persson said. "If we now begin to hesitate about the Kyoto Protocol, we will start completely at the beginning again and again."
Thus attention has turned to Japan and Russia, whose participation is considered key if the protocol is to enter into effect. The former has stated its intention to ratify the pact and the latter has said it is...