Russia rejects Kyoto? Reactions and predictions

Russia won't ratify the Kyoto Protocol limiting greenhouse gas emissions because it will hurt the country's economy, a top Kremlin official said Tuesday. It appeared to be a mortal blow to the accord aimed at halting global warming.

The United States rejected the accord for the same reason. Without Russia, it cannot come into effect even if approved by every other nation.

The pollution cuts required by the treaty would slow the economic growth that President Vladimir Putin has made a major priority, said top adviser Andrei Illarionov. "In its current form, the Kyoto Protocol places significant limitations on the economic growth of Russia," Illarionov told reporters in the Kremlin on the sidelines of Putin's meeting with European business leaders. "Of course, in its current form this protocol can't be ratified."

Illarionov added it would be unfair for Russia to curb emissions and stymie its own growth while the United States and other nations, which account for the bulk of global emissions, refuse to join the pact.


Finland According to Finland's Minister of the Environment Jan-Erik Enestam aide Taina Mutanen, Enestam will comment on the move later if and when Russia gives an official statement on its stand.

Representing Finland at the Milan gathering was Environment Ministry official Outi Berghдll. She said that Illarionov's announcement would not affect the current negotiations, because it was the opinion of just one official. She said that now it is important to wait and see. "The future of the Kyoto Protocol can be assessed only after Russia announces its stand on the political level", said Berghдll, who spoke on behalf of Finland in Milan on Tuesday evening. She also criticised Illarionov's claim that the treaty would hurt economic growth as an oversimplification.

Berghдll pointed out that Russia is also on the receiving end of the Kyoto Protocol: it can take advantage of joint projects with the EU and earn money by selling emission entitlements to other countries.

Japan Japan still hopes Russia will ratify a U.N. plan to curb global warming despite comments by a senior official.

"We think that...Russia basically has a will to ratify, even if it hasn't said clearly when it will do so," said Hiroshi Sagawa, an official at the ministry's global environment bureau. Sagawa said Russia had not informed Japan through diplomatic channels of any decision not to ratify the protocol.

Japan may press Russia on this point during Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov's visit to Tokyo from December 15, when he is expected to meet Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, Sagawa said. Sagawa said he thought there were differing views within the Russian government on the U.N. plan and that Illarionov's view was just one of them.

Canada In Ottawa, incoming prime minister Paul Martin admitted Canada does not have a plan for implementing the protocol. "What we need is a plan .... We have not yet developed that plan -- certainly not to my satisfaction," Martin said Tuesday. "You need a plan to determine whether you can meet those targets."

Ottawa's goal for Kyoto is to slash Canada's annual greenhouse gas emissions by 240 million tonnes by 2010, even though the federal government has dedicated $3.6 billion to greenhouse gas reduction since 1997.

THE KYOTO PROTOCOL The Kyoto Protocol, signed by most of the world's nations at a conference in Japan in 1997, sets targets for countries to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, which are seen as a key factor behind global warming. To take effect, the pact requires ratification by a minimum of 55 countries, which must include the industrialized nations that accounted for at least 55 per cent of that group's carbon dioxide emissions in 1990. Canada ratified the accord last December. So far, industrialized nations that have signed on account for 44.2 per cent of the 1990 emissions. Russia accounts for 17.4 per cent, so its ratification would push the group over the top.

Putin has called for the doubling of Russia's gross domestic product by 2010 -- a goal officials fear might conflict with the Kyoto Protocol, which would require the Kremlin to overhaul Russian industries to cut emissions.

Russia's emissions have fallen by 32 per cent since 1990 amid the post-Soviet industrial meltdown, but they have slowly started to rise with the economic revival of the past five years.

[information from Reuters, Associated Press and Helsingin Sanomat]

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