The landmark Kyoto Protocol, which hopes to slow down global warming, goes into effect today with most of the industrialized world committed to slashing gas emissions, but the US, China, India and Australia holding out.
The treaty, which comes into force at 5am Greenwich Mean Time, seeks for the industrial world as a whole to slash its greenhouse gas emission by 5.2 percent by 2012, with targets set according to each country's pollution level.
A total of 141 countries have signed the treaty including 30 industrialized countries, but not the US or Australia, which say that Kyoto's burden to their economies would be too great.
Growing developing countries China and India are also outside the framework, a fact pointed out by US President George W. Bush when he abandoned Kyoto as one of his first acts when taking office in 2001. The treaty came into effect after the ratification of Russia.
Environmentalists plan to hold protests around the world, including in Kyoto, to mark the treaty coming into force, with many targeting the US.
The main ceremony to mark the entry of Kyoto will be held in the ancient Japanese capital where the treaty was reached in 1997, with speakers to include Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai.
Maathai, an ecologist and Kenya's deputy environment minister, said that the Kyoto protocol would require not just efforts from governments and businesses, but also a change in the way people live.
"One of the reasons why some of the countries don't want to support the Kyoto Protocol is exactly because they don't want to reduce their overconsumptive life pattern," Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, told the Mainichi Shimbun.
"One way of reducing that overconsumption is by learning to reuse a lot of the resources that we use and just throw away," she said.
But even for countries that have signed on to Kyoto, meeting the goals could be difficult.
The trade and industry ministry has said that 11 of its 30 industries could fail to meet self-imposed targets aimed at helping Japan meet its legal requirement to slash emissions by 6 percent from 1990 levels by 2012.