The Heat Is Online

Russia Threatens To Kill Kyoto Protocol

Kremlin Aide Sows Confusion as Rejects Kyoto Again
Reuters News Service
, Dec. 5, 2003

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Confusion grew over Russia's position on the Kyoto protocol on Thursday as the Kremlin and the economy ministry clashed over the landmark environmental treaty, which Moscow can effectively veto.

Kremlin economic adviser Andrei Illarionov said he had spoken for President Vladimir Putin two days ago in calling the pact unacceptable, but the economy ministry reaffirmed a deputy minister's statement that the government intended to ratify it.

Analysts said the conflict meant Putin had not made up his mind over the pact, which aims to cut emissions of the gases that cause global warming, and was unlikely to do so until after presidential elections in March.

"The deputy economy minister is mistaken. He is mistaken in his timing. What he said was the position of the Russian Federation in August," Illarionov told reporters.

"(Tuesday's) statement was made physically by me, but the words I was using were those of the Russian president."

Russia has long been pressured by the United States and the European Union, which oppose and back the pact respectively, to make up its mind. Russian approval has been key to the treaty since Washington backed out in 2001.

It will come into force if countries responsible for 55 percent of nations' emissions approve it. That means Russia -- responsible for 17 percent -- has the casting vote.

On Wednesday, the economy ministry said the government had not decided to bow out of the pact and still supported it in principle -- and it stood by the statement on Thursday.

"The economy ministry will give no comments today, because the ministry's position is unchanged from how it was expressed yesterday," a spokeswoman said.


Analysts said the mixed signals were a sign the Russian government did not have a position on the pact and was feeling out reactions to different policies.

"If one government agency is arguing with another government agency it means there is no position," said Boris Makarenko, of the Institute of Political Technologies think-tank.

Washington is the major opponent of the Kyoto protocol, but until recently Russia was closer to the EU position. Two months ago, Putin backed away from promises to approve the treaty, saying Russia needed to study its potential economic effect.

Illarionov, regarded an opponent of Kyoto, has said the treaty's curbs could restrict Russia's energy-dependent economy, while also preventing its industry from growing back to levels before the Soviet collapse.

"What we do not know is whether Russia is associating itself with the U.S. and whether it is bowing to pressure," one diplomat said. "If this is the case, we cannot expect any final decision until after the U.S. elections late next year."

He said Putin would heed advisers who said the pact would endanger his key domestic policy of doubling national wealth in a decade, and that he frequently over-ruled ministries when he had a personal interest in an issue.

"The president is quite aggressive...he has the last say and often it is against the proposals of the economy ministry and even the prime minister," said the diplomat.

Russia holds presidential elections in March. The widely popular Putin is expected to win and reshuffle his government -- a move which could well change its position on the pact.

"We believe that this situation means we cannot expect any decision until after the...elections," the diplomat said.

Reuters News Service


Putin Aide Rules Out Russian Approval of Kyoto Protocol

The New York Times, Dec. 2, 2003

MOSCOW, Dec. 2  A senior Kremlin official said today that Russia would not ratify the international treaty requiring cuts in emissions of gases linked to global warming, delivering what could be the fatal blow to years of diplomatic efforts to address the problem.

With the Bush administration having previously rejected the treaty, known as the Kyoto Protocol, Russia essentially held a veto over its enactment, since the agreement could only take effect when adopted by enough countries to account for 55 percent of emissions by industrialized countries. Some 120 countries have done so, but without Russia or the United States, that 55 percent threshold cannot be met.

President Vladimir V. Putin announced Russia's rejection of the treaty during a meeting at the Kremlin with European businessmen, the senior official, Andrei N. Illarionov, said in public remarks and in an interview.

The Russian statements reverberated powerfully today in Milan, where hundreds of delegates from around the world are in the second day of a two-week meeting on the proposed protocol and an underlying climate treaty that contains no binding provisions.

Some participants saw Russia's apparent retreat as accelerating a wave of doubt about the practicality of a pact requiring prompt cuts in emissions of carbon dioxide, a gas that remains a fundamental byproduct of burning the fossil fuels underpinning modern economies.

But United Nations officials and others, noting that Mr. Putin himself did not comment publicly on the treaty, expressed hope that Mr. Illarionov's remarks did not reflect Russia's official position.

"This gentleman has said in the past that he was not convinced about the protocol, and Mr. Putin has not said anything different from what he said so far," said Michael Williams, a spokesman for the United Nations officials administering the treaties. "So there is no reason for us to interpret this as anything other than comments from one of his advisers."

But Mr. Illarionov asserted in a telephone interview that Russia's decision not to adopt the treaty was unequivocal. "We shall not ratify," he said.

That decision, ending more than a year of speculation about Russia's position, brushed aside impassioned appeals from the United Nations and from individual countries, especially in Europe, that have embraced the protocol as the best way to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases that many scientists have linked to a potentially dangerous rise in global temperatures.

The treaty, completed in the Japanese city of Kyoto in 1997 after two years of intense diplomatic wrangling, called on major industrialized countries to reduce emissions before 2012 by 5.2 percent from 1990 levels. Barring a 11th-hour reversal of position by Russia, the treaty now appears dead, leaving uncertain the future of international cooperation on the question of global warming.

As recently as last year, President Putin indicated Russia's willingness to sign the accord, but since then he and other officials have wavered, raising questions about whether the country stood to benefit from ratification, especially without the participation of the United States and without mandatory limits on developing countries like China.

That exemption to China, as well as to India and other big developing nations, also figured prominently in President Bush's stated rationale for opposing the accord, as did concern over the costs of complying with it.

At a climate conference in Moscow in September, Mr. Putin said Russia remained committed to addressing climate change, but he also shocked many conferees with an impromptu quip suggesting that global warming could benefit a country hardened by winter cold. "We shall save on fur coats and other warm things," he said.

Mr. Illarionov said the treaty's supporters had failed to answer questions about the treaty's scientific rationale, its fairness and the potential harm to Russia's economy, which Mr. Putin has pledged to double over the next decade.

"A number of questions have been raised about the link between carbon dioxide and climate change, which do not appear convincing," Mr. Illarionov said. "And clearly it sets very serious brakes on economic growth which do not look justified."

In a telephone interview from the Milan treaty talks, the climate policy director for the World Wildlife Fund, Jennifer Morgan, echoed the hopeful sentiments of the United Nations officials, saying she saw nothing in the statements from Mr. Illarionov as representing official government policy. She said Mr. Putin himself, while repeatedly noting this fall that Russia had to take time to weigh the treaty's merits against potential economic costs, had never explicitly rejected it.

As for the statements by Mr. Illarionov, Mr. Putin's adviser, Ms. Morgan said: "This is not really a surprise. This has been his line all along."

A statement issued by the wildlife fund further dismissed his remarks as "nothing more than pre-election bluster" tied to parliamentary elections in Russia on Sunday.

The statement quoted the fund's chief representative in Russia, Alexey Kokorin, as minimizing Mr. Illarionov's stature. "Illarionov does not speak for the president or the Russian government," Mr. Kokorin said. "This is just the latest statement in a long line of predictions by Illarionov which have failed to eventuate. He opposed the Russian energy strategy, which was then adopted in May 2003, and he poured cold water on the economic plan for G.D.P. growth, which was also later adopted."

Since the collapse of Soviet-era industry, Russia's emission of gases has fallen by an estimated 30 percent, meaning it could easily have met its required reductions. Under the treaty's complex formulas, it stood to gain financially from selling credits that would allow other countries to exceed the treaty's limits. Some major Russian industries lobbied for the protocol, seeing it as a way to use the credits to modernize aging plants.

Without the United States, however, many officials here concluded that the potential economic gains would not be as lucrative as first thought. And with the Russian economy increasingly reliant on oil and gas production and exports, the officials concluded that the treaty's limits could become a drag on economic growth in the future.

Aleksei V. Yablokov, a former environmental official under President Boris N. Yeltsin and now president of the Center for Ecological Policy in Moscow, said he believed the American decision weighed heavily on the Kremlin. He added that Russian industries also feared having to make a full disclosure of their emissions, suggesting actual levels had been underreported.

"All of this is a political game," he said. "It has nothing to do with the environment. It has nothing to do with economics."

The protocol is an outgrowth of the first international climate treaty, the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change, which committed the world's industrialized nations to work voluntarily to avoid "dangerous" human interference with the climate system, but never defined "dangerous."

After signatories in 1995 recognized that emissions were continuing to grow, negotiations began toward a binding addendum, culminating in 1997 with the current protocol. The targets for individual countries ranged widely depending on their contribution to the problem and intensive bargaining aimed at being sure no country was getting too great a competitive advantage.

It has become clear in the last two years that even the countries with the easiest targets are unlikely to achieve them, given the continuing growth in the global economy and  inevitably  in emissions of the warming gases.

Even as the statements from Russia rocked the treaty talks, the European Commission issued a report warning that the European Union over all, and 13 of its 15 member states, would fail to meet their targets under the Kyoto Protocol unless new measures to curb greenhouse emissions were enacted.

The European Union had generally been perceived as having a relatively easy time of it under the treaty, because of longstanding existing economic trends, like Britain's shift from coal to North Sea natural gas, which produces far fewer greenhouse gases when burned.

Mr. Illarionov said that Russia remained receptive to an international effort to reduce harmful emissions. But he insisted that Russia would not ratify a treaty that did not include the United States, China and other nations that, he said, produced more gases than Russia and had greater financial resources to cope with the economic consequences of reductions.

A new treaty that "would be truly global," he said, "could be a new basis in which we could start discussions."


Russia Deals Blow to Kyoto as EU Backslides
Reuters News Service, Dec. 2, 2003

By Oliver Bullough and Robin Pomeroy

MOSCOW/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Russia dealt a new blow to a U.N. plan to curb global warming on Tuesday as even European Union supporters of the landmark pact admitted backsliding.

A senior Russian official said that Moscow, left with an effective veto over the entire Kyoto Protocol after the United States pulled out in 2001, could not accept the 1997 plan in its current form.

"The Kyoto Protocol places significant limitations on the economic growth of Russia," Andrei Illarionov, an advisor to President Vladimir Putin on economic issues, told reporters in Moscow.

"Of course, in its current form, this protocol cannot be ratified," he said. He did not spell out what changes might bring a "Yes" from the Russian parliament.

The United Nations, hosting 180-nation climate talks in Milan on December 1-12 to work out details of Kyoto, said that one official's views did not amount to a formal rejection by Moscow. Illarionov is a leading Kyoto skeptic in Russia.

Environmentalists dismissed the remarks as bluster before Sunday's elections to the Russian Duma, which formally has the final say over Kyoto in Russia.

"While Illarionov's opinion will sound like music to the ears of the U.S. administration, it's far too early to be reading the funeral notice of the Kyoto Protocol," Greenpeace's Stephen Guilbeault said.

Russia holds the key because Kyoto can only enter into force if it is ratified by nations accounting for 55 percent of developed countries' emissions of carbon dioxide.

Kyoto has so far reached 44 percent, making Russia's 17 percent a casting vote after the United States, the world's number one polluter, pulled out its 36 percent stake.


In what could be a more serious setback, the EU Commission said that only Sweden and Britain of the EU's 15 member states were on track to meet the EU's Kyoto goals.

Kyoto aims to curb emissions of gases like carbon dioxide spewed from power plants and cars that are blamed for blanketing the planet and driving up global temperatures. The EU has agreed to cut emissions by eight percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.

In the EU rankings, Spain was bottom of the class with Denmark, Austria, Belgium and Ireland also lagging badly.

EU nations have been among the leading proponents of Kyoto along with Japan, blaming human-induced global warming for triggering more frequent catastrophes like heat waves, floods or tornadoes and for melting ice that could raise sea levels.

"Unless more is done, the EU as a whole and the majority of its member states will miss their Kyoto targets," Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom said. "This is serious. Time is running out."

She said she had written to member states to urge them to take new measures. Kyoto aims to promote a shift to renewable energies like wind, solar or hydrogen power while encouraging closure of fossil-fuel smokestacks.

Under Kyoto countries would be able to buy or sell the right to pollute depending on whether their emissions were higher or lower than envisaged.

Many economists argue Moscow stands to gain from Kyoto because Russia's Soviet-era industries have collapsed, leaving it with spare emissions quotas that could be worth billions of dollars.

In Milan, officials brushed aside Illarionov's skepticism.

"This is a senior adviser to the president, it is not a formal rejection like we saw with America," said Michael Williams, a U.N. climate talks spokesman. "We remain optimistic that...Russia will ratify."

Two months ago, Putin backed away from Moscow's previous promises to ratify soon. And he said that a warmer climate might benefit Russian farming and could help people save money on warm fur coats in winter.

© Copyright Reuters 2003. All rights reserved.

Russia pulls away from Kyoto pact, Dec. 2, 2003

Russia says it will not ratify in its present form the Kyoto Protocol designed to mitigate global warming.

"The Kyoto protocol places significant limitations on the economic growth of Russia," presidential aide Andrei Illarionov told a conference in Milan.

The landmark environmental pact cannot now enter into legal force, especially since the US has also repudiated it.

It means the protocol will either have to be renegotiated or the nations that have signed will have to go it alone.

The Russian decision, announced at a meeting of the countries which are members of the United Nations Climate Change Convention, is a devastating blow to hopes for international agreement on tackling climate change.

'Vital' first step

The protocol requires industrialised countries to cut their emissions of six gases which scientists believe are exacerbating natural climate change.

Signatories will by some time between 2008 and 2012 have to cut emissions to 5.2% below their 1990 levels.

But many scientists say cuts of around 60-70% will be needed by mid-century to avoid runaway climate change.

The convention's executive secretary, Ms Joke Waller-Hunter, told BBC News Online: "It's wrong to think the protocol will do so little that it's insignificant.

"It's a very important first step that can lead to much more far-reaching measures. Yes, it's a peanut - but a vital one in the long run."

The protocol would have entered into force when 55 signatories had ratified it, including industrialised countries responsible for 55% of the developed world's carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 1990.

'Paper' pollution

Some critics say President Bush's decision that the US, which emits more greenhouse gases than any other country, would not ratify the protocol had already condemned it to irrelevance.

But enough other signatories have done so for it to have entered into force if Russia, another big polluter, had decided to ratify.

The protocol's supporters question Mr. Illarionov's view that ratifying Kyoto would harm Russia's economic prospects.

Each country's emission reduction targets were set in 1990, when the Soviet Union's heavy industries were still pumping out huge amounts of pollution.

Russia (and most of the states of the former Soviet bloc) cannot now afford either the industries, or even the fuel that drove them.

So Moscow has the notional right, under the protocol, to emit vast quantities of "paper" pollution which will never leave a factory chimney.

What it can do is sell its unused emission entitlements to industrialised countries which are close to exceeding their own allowances, and this could be a very lucrative trade.

Future talks

Throughout first the US and now Russian refusal to ratify the protocol, the European Union has remained an enthusiastic advocate of its potential.

The EU Environment Commissioner, Margot Wallstrom, commenting on an announcement by the European Environment Agency that the EU was on course to miss its targeted emission cuts, remained resolutely hopeful.

"The Kyoto Protocol is not dead", she said. "It has maybe held its breath for a little while as we are all waiting for the Russian ratification."

A few minutes later came Mr. Illiarionov's bombshell, tempered only slightly by his qualification that Russia would not ratify the protocol "in its present form".

One of the criticisms of Kyoto made by the US and others is that it requires only industrialised countries to make emissions cuts.

The developing countries are exempt for the moment, though negotiations were due to start soon on the cuts they will soon have to make.

Many of them are already working to live up to the spirit of the protocol. But if neither the US nor Russia is willing to sign up to the letter, the poor world may lose interest as well.

Can't ratify Kyoto Protocol, Russia says

The Associated Press, Dec. 2, 2003

Moscow  A senior adviser to President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Russia cannot ratify the Kyoto Protocol limiting greenhouse-gas emissions, dealing a mortal blow to the pact that required Russia's ratification to take effect.

"In its current form, the Kyoto Protocol places significant limitations on the economic growth of Russia," Mr. Putin's economic adviser, Andrei Illarionov, told reporters in the Kremlin. "Of course, in this current form this protocol can't be ratified."

Mr. Putin had previously cast doubts on Moscow's willingness to ratify the protocol, but had not completely ruled out ratification.

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol calls for countries to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases, which are seen as a key factor behind global warming.

To come into force, the pact must be ratified by at least 55 countries, accounting for at least 55 per cent of global emissions in 1990. Under the treaty's complex rules, the minimum can be reached only with Russia's ratification because the United States, the world's biggest producer of greenhouse gases, has rejected the treaty.

Ottawa has ratified the accord, and officials have said Canada will implement the treaties goals even if Russia backs out.

Russia's reluctance to ratify the pact despite its earlier pledge to do so has vexed Kyoto's European and other UN backers, who warned Moscow that it would lose politically and economically if it failed to ratify Kyoto.

But Mr. Illarionov, who made his comments on the sidelines of Mr. Putin's meeting with European business executives at the Kremlin, said firmly that the pact is against Russian interests.

"It's impossible to undertake responsibilities that place serious limits on the country's growth," he said.

He added that it would be unfair to Russia to curb emissions and stymie its own growth while the United States and others that account for the bulk of global emissions refuse to join the pact.

The protocol's proponents see Kyoto as vital, warning that failure to quickly put it into force could trigger a dangerous, steep rise in greenhouse gas concentrations that would be far more difficult to control in the future.