Happy Birthday, Mr. Putin: How about a present for the Planet?

Ratify Kyoto

Feature story - 7 October, 2003
A Politician breaking a promise is nothing new. But when a broken promise could be putting the world in danger it's a big deal. Despite promises to sign up to tackle global warming, Russian president Putin seems to be playing roulette with the climate. On Putin's 51th birthday we are reminding him -- through actions in 19 countries -- that he is holding our future in his hands.

Demanding Putin sign the Kyoto Protocol.

In 1988 politicians started talking seriously about the threat of global warming and climate change. It took many years of horse-trading and a lot of hot air to arrive at the first baby step to tackling global warming - the Kyoto Protocol of 1997. It's now 15 years later and Kyoto has yet to enter into force because the US is determined to block any international effort to address climate change. That leaves Russia as the one country that needs to sign to make the treaty international law. Our activists are delivering birthday reminders to Putin around the globe urging him to sign up and start global efforts to tackle climate change.

The first action of the day was at the Russian embassy in Bangkok where activists presented the ambassador with a cake in the shape of a melting Earth. The ambassador repeated that Russia is still examining the treaty (read 'stalling' as they have had 3 years to 'examine' it already). After exchanging views the activists left only slightly disappointed that the cake was actually accepted, thus scuppering their plans to sample some tasty morsels.

Around the world, and around the clock, Greenpeace activists and volunteers presented Russian embassy officials with giant pens, birthday cakes, and other reminders to Putin that he's not getting any younger, and climate change is not going away on its own.

The Russian delay in signing the treaty is mystifying. The government has previously promised to sign and Russia stands to gain economically from the conditions of the treaty. It is quite likely that the US government, at the urging of its corporate backers like Exxon, is pressuring Russia not to bring the treaty into force. Or maybe Putin is paying too much attention to his economic advisors who claim the treaty will be too expensive for Russia.

In fact the opposite is true. Russia would gain from the treaty because industrial decline has lowered its emissions of greenhouse gases since the collapse of outdated state industries. The impacts of climate change would have many adverse affects on Russia even if Putin likes to joke that Russians would have to wear their hats less often.

Our climate campaigner, Steven Guilbeault, explains: "Climate change is becoming a reality in many parts of the globe and Russia is no exception. Permafrost, which covers approximately 2/3 of Russian territory, is showing signs of melting. This will damage forests, pipelines, buildings and other infrastructure. Productivity in the agriculture sector could be reduced between 10 - 40 percent. Infectious diseases like West Nile Virus and Dengue Fever are likely to affect more and more Russians in the decades to come."

No doubt Russians might not find it as funny as Putin does if they swap their hats for more expensive food, damaged infrastructure and extra helpings of infectious diseases. Kyoto will not alone solve the problem of climate change but it does mark a historic first step in international efforts to combat a problem that affects us all. Let's hope Putin doesn't chop the legs off these first global efforts before a first step is even taken.

More information

Kyoto Protocol Thermometer from United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Greenpeace Climate Change pages

Take action!

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