Signals from Russia that ratification of the Kyototo Protocal on climate change may be further delayed have been greeted with dismay by the European Union's top environmental official
Words of regret came just days after the international climate change conference ended in the Russian capital. And alongside the disappointment came a statement warning that higher temperatures could bring massive damage across Russia as permafrost melts.
European Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrum said: "I regret that Russia missed this excellent opportunity to announce that it would ratify the Kyoto Protocol in the near future. Russia would lose out politically and economically by not ratifying this agreement.
"Every day that passes, the risk that investments go to other countries rather than Russia rises," Wallstrum said. "I am convinced that Russia will ratify also because this is a matter of political credibility. After all, Russia promised to ratify more than a year ago."
Kyoto was negotiated under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and has been ratified by 119 countries, including the European Union. At a world summit on sustainable development in Johannesburg last year, Russian premier Mikhail Kasyanov committed to the protocol's early ratification.
The accord is based on work by an inter-governmental panel grouping leading world experts. This underlined the dramatic global consequences from climate change, threatening higher sea levels, more frequent extreme weather events such as storms and floods, and the spread of tropical diseases. Higher temperatures could melt permafrost, with enormous cost to infrastructure in large parts of Russia, scientists predict.
European Union (EU) officials say once the protocol comes into force, Russia will benefit from "emissions trading." This will allow Russia to sell emission credits to other parties. Combined work will allow partners from various industrialised countries to invest in projects in Russia and earn credits from the emission reductions achieved.
"This will provide an additional incentive for investments in Russia," an EU statement said. Several community member states plan to set aside public funds to promote joint implementation projects, Brussels officials say. How many emission credits the EU buys from Russia and the number of joint projects would be decided by market demand.
They would also reflect "framework conditions for joint implementation in Russia," officials say, warning that Russia's delay in ratifying the protocol risked weakening interest among EU business in joint projects.