The Heat Is Online

Russia Tells WSSD It Will Ratify Kyoto Protocol

Russia backs Kyoto treaty as criticism of US grows

The Boston Globe, Sept. 4, 2002

JOHANNESBURG - As negotiators tied up the loose ends of an antipoverty strategy to ease pressure on the environment, Russia announced yesterday it would ratify the Kyoto Protocol, joining China and Canada in assuring enough signatories to make the treaty binding for most of the world and prompting more criticism of the United States for opposing it.

The announcement, by Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov of Russia to delegates at the UN-sponsored Earth Summit on sustainable development, confirmed Moscow's previous assurances that it would endorse the accord to reduce global warming by cutting smokestack and other emissions.

''Russia has signed the Kyoto Protocol, and we are now preparing its ratification,'' Kasyanov said. ''We consider that ratification will take place in the very near future.''

China unexpectedly announced yesterday that it had ratified the treaty. Canada, another Kyoto holdout, announced Monday that it would soon present the accord to Parliament for a ratification vote.

With Canadian ratification, the Kyoto Protocol, which grew out of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit in Brazil, would become mandatory for much of the world to begin reducing carbon dioxide and other gases emitted by autos, factories, and other sources blamed for increasing the planet's temperatures.

This week's developments on the Kyoto treaty also focused renewed attention on the Bush administration, which rejects the accord on the grounds that implementing it would hurt the US economy.

''We must, all of us, ratify the Kyoto Protocol. It is right in itself but so in the principle of binding targets,'' Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain said in Mozambique on Sunday before his arrival at the summit. ''But we would not have done it without multilateral agreement supporting individual government action. That is why building on Kyoto is so important.''

French President Jacques Chirac said at the summit Monday that ''now is no longer the time for an `every country for itself' attitude. A solemn call should go out from Johannesburg to all the countries in the world, especially the leading industrialized countries, to ratify and apply the Kyoto Protocol. Climate warming is still reversible. Heavy would be the responsibility of those who refused to fight it.''

The debate on climate change, ahead of last night's arrival of Secretary of State Colin L. Powell for today's closing session, underscored broad international frustration with Washington's reluctance to solve global problems.

''The United States has withdrawn from a number of multilateral agreements, and they are using multilateralism a la carte,'' said Jan Pronk, special envoy to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. ''It is to be deplored in a number of fields. For instance, climate.''

The Kyoto Protocol requires signing nations to reduce their overall climate warming emissions - so-called greenhouse gases - by at least 5 percent below their 1990 levels by no later than 2012. The Clinton administration signed the pact in draft form in 1998, but never sent it to the Senate for ratification, fearing the then-Republican majority would shoot it down. In March 2001, President Bush said that ''as far as I'm concerned, the Kyoto Protocol is dead,'' and vowed never to send it on to the Senate.

To become legally binding, the accord requires the ratification of at least 55 countries whose emissions of carbon dioxide constitute 55 percent of emissions at 1990 levels. Some 89 countries have already ratified, including all 15 members of the European Union.

Because the accord places the onus on developed nations to account for the initial required emissions cuts, ratifications by Russia and Canada would make it legal and binding - but only for signatories. The United States and others outside the pact won't be tied to its targets.

Senior members of the US delegation said the administration won't be pressured by criticism and denied any disengagement from international commitments or the debate on climate change.

US delegates pointed to US programs on climate change and alternative energy sources worth $450 billion, including a plan Bush announced last February to cut US emissions by 18 percent by 2010.

''What the president has said is, `Let's put out a target that really is very much in line with what our Kyoto targets would be, but do it in a way that allows us the flexibility to ensure energy independence and a sustainable flow of energy at prices people can afford,''' said Christine Todd Whitman, the Environmental Protection Agency's administrator. ''When you look at the impact our trade and our imports have on developing nations' economies, it's important that we keep a strong economy as well.''

But Philip Clapp, director of the Washington-based National Environmental Trust, said that unlike Kyoto, the US emissions reductions are based on voluntary commitments - which do not work. ''The Bush plan rejects all mandatory requirements from US companies and there is no reporting requirement,'' he said. ''We've had voluntary programs for carbon dioxide emission since the first Bush administration, and emissions went up by 13 percent in the 1990s.''

This story ran on page A6 of the Boston Globe on 9/4/2002.

China, Russia back Kyoto greenhouse gas pact, Sept. 4, 2002

JOHANNESBURG - Russia and China gave their backing yesterday for the Kyoto protocol meant to cut emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for warming the planet.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told the Earth Summit he expected Moscow to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on global warming soon.

Russian ratification would, due to a complex weighting system, virtually ensure the treaty is implemented despite its rejection by the biggest air polluter, the United States.

"Russia has signed the Kyoto Protocol and we are now preparing its ratification. We consider that ratification will take place in the very nearest future," Kasyanov said to applause from a plenary session of the U.N. meeting. The treaty has been passed to the Russian parliament.

European Union nations in particular are pressing Russia to have its parliament ratify the 1997 treaty as soon as possible to bring it into effect and open the way to special aid flows for poor countries hit by climate change.

Shortly after his speech to the summit, Reuters asked him whether he expected the ratification to take place this year. "Maybe this year," he replied, but declined further comment.

China, the world's second biggest polluter, earlier told the U.N. meeting it had ratified the agreement. But as a developing country, China is not bound by any goals for restraining emissions of carbon dioxide, mostly caused by burning fossil fuels such as oil and coal.

Targets under Kyoto so far apply only to developed states but might in future be extended to China, the world's most populous nation with more than a billion people.

"I would like to announce hereby that the Chinese government has ratified the Kyoto protocol," Premier Zhu Rongji told delegates at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. China had been expected to back the Kyoto climate pact.

The agreement holds industrialised nations to cutting emissions of carbon dioxide to around five percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

"With reform and opening up, China has scored an average annual growth rate of 9.3 percent of gross domestic product in the past decade or so," he said. He also said "excessively rapid" population growth had been brought under control.


Russia gives Kyoto kiss of life, Sept. 3, 2002

Russia is planning to ratify the Kyoto treaty on global warming soon, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has confirmed at the World Summit.

Russia's backing would mean that enough big producers of greenhouse gases have signed up to bring the treaty into effect.

The treaty received a massive blow when the United States - the world's biggest polluter - pulled out under the presidency of George W Bush. The ratification promise by Russia - the third biggest polluter - gives the ailing treaty the kiss of life.

The Russian announcement is one of several key initiatives to emerge from the summit, where delegates are nearing agreement on a final declaration. Russia's confirmation that it was pressing ahead with Kyoto came in Prime Minister Kasyanov's address to delegates.

"Russia has signed the Kyoto Protocol and we are now preparing its ratification. We consider that ratification will take place in the very nearest future," he told them, to warm applause.

The treaty needs a majority of greenhouse gas producers - responsible for 55% of 1990 worldwide carbon emissions - to sign up before it can be implemented.

Russia's involvement would take it past that level, even without the US.

The 1990 figures showed the US producing 36% of carbon emissions, and Russia 17%. Russian President Vladimir Putin said in April that his country would ratify Kyoto.


However, a final review of costs and benefits was taking place over the summer, with opponents claiming the treaty might hinder Russia's economic development. But the benefits could be enormous.

Russia expects its carbon emissions to be down by 20% from 1990 levels when Kyoto comes into force in 2008 - meaning it would then be able to sell carbon pollution "credits", bringing a potential windfall of tens of billions of dollars.

Russia would be able to use this money to modernise its energy-intensive industries.

However, Russia would have first to prove that its emissions levels for 1990 were accurate. If it cannot do this, experts say, the bonanza will not materialise.

Russia's announcement was welcomed by environmental campaigners.

"Confirmation by Russia is good news for the climate and brings us that bit closer to ratification of the Kyoto protocol this year," Gordon Shepherd of WWF International told BBC News Online.

"Only Russia and Canada are needed to enable the protocol to enter into force."

On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien told the summit his country's parliament would vote on ratification before the end of the year.

The US has been unmoved by the welter of criticism it has received since pulling out. President Bush claims US business interests would be harmed by the treaty.

Chinese backing

China has also proclaimed its support for the protocol, with Prime Minister Zhu Rongji telling delegates at the World Summit that the government had completed the domestic phase of its path to adopting the treaty.

"I would like to announce hereby that the Chinese government has ratified the Kyoto protocol," Mr Zhu was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

China, as a developing nation is not bound by the goals for restraining carbon dioxide emmissions laid out in the Kyoto agreement, but Chinese support is crucial for its survival.

It is the world's second-largest producer of carbon dioxide emissions - and the US has long cited China as one reason why it will not ratify the deal.

"China hopes that other developed countries will ratify or approve the protocol as soon as possible so as to enable it to enter into force within this year," Mr Zhu added.