Russia Backs Kyoto; Treaty May Enter Force Next Year (Update4)
Sept. 30 (Bloomberg) -- The Russian government agreed to sign the Kyoto treaty, meaning the global climate accord probably will enter into force next year over the opposition of the U.S., the world's biggest polluter.
The government today decided to send a bill to parliament on ratifying Kyoto, in a vote shown on state-owned Rossiya television. The 1997 United Nations treaty obliges signatories to limit carbon dioxide emissions that cause environmental damage. Scientists say emissions, such as those produced by factories, power plants and cars, are a cause of global warming.
``This is a huge success for the international fight against climate change,'' European Commission President Romano Prodi said in a statement issued in Brussels. ``Putin has sent a strong signal of his commitment and sense of responsibility.''
Russia's signature is needed because the treaty becomes binding only when adopted by countries representing at least 55 percent of the industrial world's greenhouse-gas emissions in 1990. The U.S., which represents 36 percent of global emissions according to the treaty, refuses to sign the accord because of concern it will slow economic growth and doubts it will have any effect in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
``The United States position on the Kyoto Protocol has not changed,'' State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in Washington. ``We felt it wasn't the right thing for the United States, but it's up to other nations to independently evaluate whether ratification is in their national interest.''
The U.S. ``continues to participate actively'' in UN-led talks on climate change, and the Bush administration also has been ``advancing a comprehensive set'' of programs concerning climate change, including a commitment in 2002 to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions over the following decade at a rate 18 percent below the rate of U.S. economic growth.
Given the U.S. economy's projected growth of 3 percent annually, this proposal would let overall U.S. emissions grow ``at nearly the same rate as at present,'' or about 12 percent over the period of 2002 to 2012, according to the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, a private policy study group based in Arlington, Virginia.
Concern about the effects on economic growth had also delayed approval by Russia, where the economy shrank in each of the first five years after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
The EU has been the main advocate of the treaty, under which emissions would be cut by an average of 5.2 percent from 1990 levels by 2012. The commission estimates that emissions trading will slash the cost of meeting its Kyoto target by a third. It's pledged to make half of the necessary cuts in greenhouse gases within Europe to show developing nations that it will share the economic burden of reducing emissions.
The accord allots emissions allowances based on Soviet-era levels of industrial activity and allows Russia to sell its unused emissions credits to countries that have exceeded their quota. That is an incentive for Russia to ratify the treaty, EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstroem has said.
Norwegian consultancy Point Carbon estimates that Russia may earn as much as $10 billion by developing a sales strategy and restricting supply of quotas to sell into the global emissions- trading market.
Russian lawmakers will probably approve the Kyoto accord by yearend, commission spokesman Reijo Kemppinen said. Supporters now represent 44 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions and Russia would add 17 percent, enough to clear the hurdle.
``We hope the U.S. will reconsider'' its decision not to join now that Russia has endorsed the treaty, Kemppinen said.
That's not likely to happen, Mahi Sideridou, EU climate policy director at Greenpeace in Brussels, said in a telephone interview. U.S. President George W. Bush has refused to submit the treaty for ratification and Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has said he wouldn't.
Kerry has said he will ``take some action to reduce emissions,'' Sideridou said. ``We are hoping with Kerry we will receive much more responsibility'' on environmental issues.
Frank Maisano, a lobbyist for U.S. utilities such as Duke Energy Corp. and Southern Co., said Russian ratification of the Kyoto treaty will be ``largely symbolic'' as there have been ``no meaningful reductions in greenhouse gases since the agreement was signed seven years ago.
``None of these countries -- including the European Union -- has done anything to cut their emissions and nothing will happen even if Russia ratifies it,'' Maisano said by telephone from Washington. ``It's been meaningless, ineffective and toothless because it's been watered down over the years.''
Gross domestic product would drop by $397 million and almost five million jobs would be lost should the U.S. sign the treaty, he said.
Australia, responsible for about 2.1 percent of the world's greenhouse gases, has also refused to ratify the Kyoto treaty.
Andrei Illarionov, Russian President Vladimir Putin's economic adviser and an outspoken critic of the Kyoto treaty, said ratification may cost the country $1 trillion in lost gross domestic product until 2012.
``Numerous economic calculations show that, if the protocol is ratified, the goal of doubling GDP in 10 years is now impossible,'' Illarionov told a government meeting in remarks broadcast by NTV in Moscow. ``This is a fact we must take into consideration.''
Putin has said Russia needs to double GDP, the total value of final goods and services produced in a country, to raise living standards.
``Russia should be motivated to become more competitive, not only because of a weak currency and environmental neglect,'' said Alexei Moisseev, an economist at Renaissance Capital in Moscow. ``Kyoto gives the right incentive for investment and development.''
Alexander Karlashov, a spokesman for Evrazholding Group, Russia's largest steel producer, said it was ``difficult to assess the impact of Kyoto'' on a company-by-company basis.
Under the treaty, Switzerland, most Eastern European nations and the EU will cut emissions by 8 percent while Canada, Hungary, Japan and Poland are to trim emissions by 6 percent. Russia, New Zealand and Ukraine would have to stabilize their emissions and both Norway and Iceland would be permitted to raise their emissions levels, by 1 percent and 10 percent, respectively.
Very much so. What worries me is if Kerry gets in you can expect him to quickly drop to his knees and start sucking the UN's and EU's dick on this one (and everything else as well)