United Nations officials today welcomed the Russian Government’s endorsement of the Kyoto Protocol regulating emissions linked to climate change – a move that brings the pact one step closer to enforcement.Secretary-General Kofi Annan hailed the move since the Protocol’s entry into force would be the “essential first step in tackling the planetary challenge posed by climate change.””He takes this occasion to remind the entire international community of the need to bring a greater sense of urgency to this crucial issue of human security and well-being,” said a statement issued by a spokesman for Mr. Annan.Klaus Toepfer, the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), was optimistic Russian action to ratify the accord – it must be approved by the Parliament – would “breathe new life” into the international climate negotiations that resume in December in Buenos Aires, Argentina.Those talks, he said, “must now ensure that developed nations meet their initial emission reduction targets while ensuring sufficient funds are made available to developing countries to allow them to reduce their vulnerability to global warming.”Russia’s ratification would also invigorate interest in cleaner fuels, more efficient energy generation and renewable energies such as wind, solar and wave power, the UNEP chief said.”Over the past year or so we have been assembling all the necessary building blocks to ensure that the Protocol becomes operational as soon as possible,” he said. “Russia’s green light will allow the climate train to leave the station so we can really begin addressing the biggest threat to the planet and its people. I hope other nations, some of whom like Russia have maybe been in the past reluctant to ratify, will now join us in this truly global endeavour.”As of last week, 125 countries have ratified or acceded to the Protocol, which is part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. To enter into force 55 Parties to the Convention must ratify the Protocol, including developed countries whose combined 1990 emissions of carbon dioxide exceed 55 per cent of that group’s total. Russia, with 17 per cent of the emissions, would push the amount beyond the threshold, according to the Convention’s secretariat. The United States has not ratified the pact.Mr. Toepfer also noted that the series of hurricanes that has devastated the Caribbean and the parts of the eastern United States in recent months show that an international alliance against climate change and for the reduction of gases is even more necessary than when Kyoto was signed in 1997.”These kinds of natural disasters, with their appalling loss of life and significant economic costs, are likely to become even more frequent and extreme unless global warming is effectively checked,” he said.”UNEP is convinced that, while only the first step in a long journey towards stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, the Kyoto Protocol is the international instrument for addressing global warming,” Mr. Toepfer declared.For his part, Anwarul K. Chowdhury, the Secretary-General’s High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, said: “There is an urgent necessity for all countries to understand and address the effects of climate change and honour the commitments made under the Kyoto Protocol.”Referring to the recent spate of hurricanes and tropical storms to strike the Caribbean, and to a conference in January on issues affecting small island developing States, Mr. Chowdhury said there must be global support for recovery efforts by such countries and tangible assistance to them in reviving their economies, as well as serious endeavours to address the issue of climate change in a practical way.In January, the UN will organize an International Meeting to Review Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, to be held in Mauritius. That action programme was originally adopted a decade ago at a UN conference in Barbados. Mr. Chowdhury will serve as the Mauritius Meeting’s Secretary-General.