Japan ratified the Kyoto Protocol on Tuesday, officially committing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, nearly 4 1/2 years after the pact was inked.

The Cabinet approved the ratification in the morning. Environment Minister Hiroshi Ohki welcomed the move and said he was drafting letters to 15 nations to notify those who have already approved the pact of Japan’s ratification, and asking those dragging their feet — including Russia and Canada — to endorse it as soon as possible. The letter to the United States, however, will request that the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases return to the climate accord.

“I am happy to see the protocol ratified, but now things will get hard,” Ohki said, referring to the development of national policies to trim greenhouse gas emissions that have grown by almost 7 percent in the nine years since 1990.

Japan has pledged to cut emissions by 6 percent of 1990 levels on average during the 2008-2012 period.

Japan was slated to officially notify United Nations headquarters in New York of its ratification Tuesday afternoon. Japan would become the 74th of the 111 signatories to ratify the treaty.

“Having served as the chair of the Kyoto conference and speaking for Japan as the chair country, I am very happy to be able to make this announcement,” Ohki said.

The accord will go into effect 90 days after it is signed by at least 55 nations that together spewed 55 percent or more of 1990’s carbon dioxide emissions.

Once Japan throws its weight behind the document, nations responsible for a combined 35.8 percent of the emissions in 1990 will have ratified the pact. A combination of Russia plus Poland or Canada would put the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change into force.

“In order to promote the protocol’s early entry into force, Japan calls on Russia and other developed countries already in the process of considering ratification to ratify the protocol as early as possible. Japan also calls on the United States, as the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, to rejoin the Kyoto Protocol framework,” Ohki said in a written statement.

Ohki said Japan has done its part to see that the protocol could be put into force by the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in September.

“But Japan can’t just concern itself with what other countries are doing. Now that Japan has ratified it, we have to push ahead with national legislation and measures,” he said. “We will need the cooperation of all citizens, or this numerical (6 percent cut) target will be hard to achieve.”

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