Russia drags its feet on climate change

Kyoto Protocol won't become law without Putin

Feature story - September 30, 2003
In a world in which the sole superpower refuses to accept or address climate change as the single largest risk facing our planet's future, Russia needs to fill the environmental leadership gap. Yet President Putin missed an opportunity yesterday at the UN World Climate Change Conference to announce ratification of the Kyoto Protocol limiting greenhouse gasses.

Banner in Russian and English demands Putin ratify Kyoto Treaty

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol would bind countries to a 5.5 percent reduction in their 1990 levels of greenhouse-gas emissions by 2008.

"President Putin has had more than three years to analyse how Kyoto could be implemented in Russia, and his stalling could now derail the entire process," said Steven Guilbeault, one of our climate campaigners now in Moscow. "Russia can play a leading role in helping solve the problem of climate change or it can choose to side with George Bush."

Since the Bush Administration decided to pull out of the agreement in 2001, only with Russian ratification can the 1997 Protocol enter into force.

During the 2002 Earth Summit, Russian Prime Minister Kasyanov said that Russia would ratify "soon", a commitment that was later confirmed by President Putin. However, since then, the Russian ratification process has been mired in the intricacies of Russian politics with anti-Kyoto forces like Economic Development and Trade Minister Gref having a field day in the face of Putin's hesitation to ratify the agreement.

"All is ready for Russian ratification," Guilbeault added. "An additional amendment for the Russian legislation process has already been agreed this September by an inter-ministerial group headed by Vice-Prime Minister Khrastenko. Everything is in President Putin's hands. He has a political, economic and environmental responsibility not just to Russia, but to the world," he concluded.

To take effect, the protocol must be ratified by no fewer than 55 countries, accounting for at least 55 percent of global emissions in 1990. Current signatories account for only 44.2 percent of emissions, and only Russian ratification can now make the treaty binding if the US refuses to do so. The US accounts for one third of the 1990 emission benchmark.

To date, 119 States have ratified, accepted, or acceded to Kyoto. Of the 37 industrialized countries who agreed emissions targets under Kyoto, only 5 have not yet ratified:

Australia

Liechtenstein

Monaco

Russia

United States

Exxon-Mobil, the world's largest oil company and a major contributor to George Bush's election campaign, has been a major lobbying force against Kyoto ratification in the US. A memo uncovered by Greenpeace recently suggests that the White House may have used an Exxon front group in an attempt to suppress an EPA study that recognised climate change as having human causes. ( You can read the full story here.)

The group, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), may have sued the Environmental Protection Agency over the study at the bidding of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Two States Attorney Generals are demanding an investigation into the links between the White House and the Exxon-funded CEI.

More information

Kyoto Protocol Thermometer from United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Greenpeace Climate Change pages

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