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Kyoto Protocol awaits nod from Russia's Putin

Date: 07-Jul-03
Country: RUSSIA
Author: Oliver Bullough

Members of the State Duma lower house of parliament said the treaty, which aims to cut global emissions of climate-changing gases, would only go through when President Vladimir Putin gave deputies the word.

"Ratification does not carry any special risks for the Russian Federation. We are not against it," Deputy Economy Minister Mukhamed Tsikanov, who is responsible for ecological issues, told Reuters.

"The Duma will vote on it, and there is of course a risk that it will not be ratified. But that is because we are a democratic country," he said in an interview.

The Duma, which is dominated by pro-Kremlin parties, is on summer recess and returns to session in early September, giving it only a month to ratify the treaty before an ecological summit in Moscow aimed at discussing the treaty's future.

Under the Kyoto Protocol's complex weighting system, its system of emission quotas would only come into force when nations accounting for 55 percent of emissions ratified it.

The United States, the world's largest polluter, pulled out of the treaty in 2001, and it can only be implemented if Russia, which accounts for 17 percent of emissions, approves it.

Most Russian parliamentarians support the protocol, said Robert Nigmatulin, chairman of a State Duma lower house of a parliament committee that advises on ecological issues.

"I am in favour of it, and I think most deputies are in favour of it," the Duma deputy said. "The treaty has to be ratified by the Duma, but it is the president that will decide."

Putin has not committed himself to a timescale to ratify the treaty, although his latest comments were interpreted as being broadly in favour of ratification.

"If everything that was written in the Kyoto Protocol came into effect, it would not solve the problem," he told students in Kaliningrad last week. "(But) it is true, as my European colleagues say, that it is a step in the right direction."

Russian emission levels, primarily of carbon dioxide, were assigned before the post-Soviet economic meltdown.

Hence, it has substantial spare capacity which it could sell to other polluters, although Tsikanov was worried that without the United States, Russia might have trouble finding as big a market as it was originally counting on.

"The most we will emit is 2.2 billion tonnes of emissions a year in 2008-2012," he said. "In those four years, we will have some three billion tonnes of quotas unused."

"The Kyoto countries will need about one billion tonnes by our reckoning, that is a maximum. And these quotas could also be bought in other places, like Ukraine, or Kazakhstan or Africa."

He said the revenues from quota sales were crucial for modernisation, and cutting Russian dependence on oil and gas, which account for more than half of budget revenues.

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