Source Pravda.Ru

Russia softens its stance on Kyoto protocol

Russia has overcome the impasse concerning the problem of the Kyoto protocol. It was clear from the very outset that the document could not harm Russia. In reality, one could argue that a negative atmosphere was deliberately whipped up around this document, which, obviously, facilitated a compromise, with Russia toning down its position on the ratification of this document.

It is no secret that many of those interested in Russia's ratifying the Kyoto protocol wanted President Vladimir Putin to clarify his position. For twelve months he listened to the arguments of the concerned parties, including in many one-to-one meetings, analysed the situation and weighed up the state's possible losses and gains. He recently set out his stall, by stating unequivocally, "With the solution of EU enlargement issues, and the signing of the WTO protocol, which reduces our medium-term economic risks, [we] can think about ratifying the Kyoto protocol." Judging by Russian realities, one can say that the document will be ratified. This does not mean, however, that its critics will vanish into thin air. Parliamentary hearings will be held soon, but the supporters and opponents are bound to confront each other before then.

The Kyoto protocol debate reached its climax in early 2002 when the United States announced that it would not abide by its provisions. The implementation of the Kyoto protocol's mechanism was to have yielded billions of dollars, but this figure fell to millions after Washington's decision. Then Russian corporations decided the protocol did not correspond to their interests.

In the aftermath, conservative climate experts became more active, voicing their concerns over the plundering of national wealth, which is in no way connected with global warming issues. They had grasped the simple fact, though, that confrontation was a profitable business and started arguing with economists, raising the temperature still further.

If ratified, the Kyoto protocol would entail various economic and political risks, the sceptics argued, which only reduced public interest in this document further. However, international law safeguards the country against any collapse. In reality, Russia's accession to the WTO is a far more serious move, as the country is far more prepared for the Kyoto protocol than the sweeping cooperation envisaged within the WTO. Nevertheless, Russia is making every effort to become a member of this organisation, believing that there are no particular risks, even though many reforms will have to be implemented and the legislative and normative base will have to be changed.

The Kyoto protocol's opponents claim that Russia's commitments will hold back industrial development. However, Russia could emit 30% more greenhouse gases. The country's experts have analysed numerous scenarios, eventually deciding that Russia is unable to incinerate the required amount of hydrocarbons and can not exceed this ceiling today: there are neither the raw materials nor the facilities to do this.

Naturally, Russia will have to make huge efforts to translate the Kyoto protocol into life. For example, industrial equipment will have to be upgraded on a tremendous scale. The sceptics believe the economy will collapse; however, only people who are afraid of progress can fear modernisation. Today, 70% of Russian enterprises have obsolete equipment, which will have to be replaced even without the Kyoto protocol.

It would hardly be original to list all the advantages of the Kyoto protocol, but some priorities should be mentioned. First of all, the document contributes greatly to the solution of energy saving and provides various incentives for economising on fuel. The environmental aspect is also important because by cutting the incineration of fuel, the level of toxic emissions will also be reduced. Moreover, the protocol suggests a new ideology for managing the environmental-protection process. It should be acknowledged that business is still not involved in environmental protection, leaving this to environmentalists. The Kyoto protocol remains the world's only document making it possible to involve "polluters" in environmental protection programmes and to create a favourable investment climate for shielding nature from man. In point of fact, the Kyoto protocol is a unique business project for the international community.