Europe and Asia came a step closer to ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, which aims to curb global warming. At a meeting of European and Asian environment ministers in Beijing, Japan announced it would ratify the agreement.
Emissions from factories and car exhausts are believed to cause global warming.
European nations and Japan have announced they want to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on reducing greenhouse gases by June of this year.
At the first ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting) summit of environmental ministers from European Union and Asian countries in Beijing, Japan surprisingly announced it would ratify the Kyoto Protocol.
Having Japan on board was seen as essential in bringing the pact into force. Japan is the world's second biggest economy and a major polluter.
The accord was jeopardized last year when the U.S. pulled out.
The Kyoto Protocol
The Kyoto protocol aims to reduce emissions from factories and car exhausts, which cause global warming -- the so-called greenhouse effect.
The pact commits the world's industrialized countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide, by an average of five percent of 1990 levels by late 2002.
When the United States abandoned the accord last March, it seemed as though that would be the end of it. The U.S. is the world's biggest polluter and accounts for approximately 18 percent of the world's carbon emissions.
President George W. Bush backed out of the agreement, saying it would hurt the U.S. economy. A chorus of criticism arose, but that didn't stop the Bush administration.
Now that Japan has announce it will be part of the pact, there is new hope that the U.S. might rejoin the Kyoto process.
Gila Altmann, Parliamentary State Secretary in Germany's Environment Ministry said Japan's change of mind came as a pleasant surprise, since the country had been weary to join the Kyoto Protocol.
Altmann thinks that the consensus which Asian and European nations showed on this issue at the Beijing meeting will send an important message to the United States.
Altmann hopes that the U.S. might join the second round of negotiations on reducing greenhouse gases, which is due to begin in 2005.