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climate change > newsfile > russia ratifies kyoto protocol

Russia ratifies Kyoto Protocol

Posted: 18 Nov 2004

After months of uncertainty, Russia has formally ratified the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. The protocol will enter into force on 16 February, 90 days after Russia formally handed over the accession papers on ratification to the United Nations. The protocol binds all those who have signed to limit the emission of six greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo: Russian Federation
Russian President Vladimir Putin has indicated his support for the Kyoto climate protocol.
© Russian Presidential Press Service
Although 124 countries had already ratified the protocol, it could not come into effect until countries accounting for 55 per cent of industrialised nations' carbon dioxide emissions in 1990 ratified it. Russia's 17 per cent share of those 1990 emissions was needed to push the protocol over the 55 per cent threshold.

Russia will be obliged to hold its emission of six greenhouse gases to 1990 levels during the first commitment period 2008-2012. Other European countries must reduce their emissions an average of eight per cent during that period.

After 2012, Russia will make another decision about whether or not it will continue to participate in the protocol.

The European Union ratified the protocol last year and has already been reducing its emissions although the protocol is not yet in force.

No fines

In an interview with the Novosti news agency, Vsevolod Gavrilov, a deputy director in the economic development and trade ministry, said that - unlike the European Union - Russia will not impose heavy fines on its industries for non-compliance.

(In the European Union, industrial enterprises will start by paying 40 euros for each metric ton of carbon dioxide emitted beyond its quota. In 2008-2010, the fine for non-compliance will rise to 100 euros per ton.)

Instead, he said, Russia will ease industries into their Kyoto targets in two stages. The government will first support industry operators who voluntarily restrict their greenhouse gas emissions, and then reward them with access to business that will allow them to develop low emissions projects.

"To make these tenders as transparent as possible, we are going to qualify the applicants by a single quantitative criterion and make the tenders online and real-time. We do not plan to impose fines for abstention from the programme," Gavrilov said.

"When the first option is fully exhausted," he said, "a decision will be made whether it is viable to make the obligations binding and compulsory."

The Protocol contains legally binding emissions targets for 36 industrialised countries. These countries are to reduce their collective emissions of six key greenhouse gases by at least five per cent by 2008-2012, compared to 1990 levels.

New agreements

This first five-year target period is only a first step, participating governments and environmentalists believe.

While developing countries do not now have specific emissions targets, they too are committed under the 1992 Climate Change Convention to taking measures to limit emissions. The protocol should open up new avenues for assisting them to do so.

Friends of the Earth International's vice-chair, Tony Juniper, said, "Despite the best efforts of the USA and some of its major corporations, the Kyoto Protocol lives. This is an historic moment for life on Earth and must pave the way for new agreements to reduce climate changing emissions."

Juniper called for "intense international pressure" to be placed on President Bush and the United States "to finally acknowledge the scale of the threat we now face and to take action to deal with it."

Warm welcome

Both the European Union and Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, had already welcomed the Russian Government's decision to ratify the protocol. "Stabilising the climate and securing the stability of the planet is still a long way off", Toepfer warned. "We must now re-doubled our efforts to deliver the even deeper cuts in emissions needed."

IUCN Director General, Achim Steiner, said "We now have a binding international agreement. It may be just a beginning but the costs of inaction would be far higher to the increasingly vulnerable communities around the world."

He added that "In combatting climate change we must not only focus on the atmosphere - but increasingly on action in the biosphere. Managing the risk will depend upon our ability to manage natural resources with an entirely new rationale."

Emissions credits

The Kyoto Protocol permits Parties to trade greenhouse gas emissions credits and Russia is entering the market with good reserves of quotas for greenhouse gas emissions, government officials say. According to the US Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environment Monitoring, the nation has reserves amounting to 2,360 million metric tons.

Russian Kyoto negotiators secured an additional quota of 605 million tons, as Russia's vast forests absorb a great deal of carbon dioxide.

"The state quota is huge and it even can be used as a strategic reserve for the country," Anatoly Zelinsky, a board member of the Unified Energy Systems electricity giant, told the Russian news agency Novosti.

According to Russia's mid-term forecast for power engineering development, by 2012, the end of the first five year protocol commitment period, greenhouse gas emissions are expected to fall by 12 to 0 per cent compared with their 1990 levels.

Russia's commitment under the protocol is to keep emission levels flat as compared with the 1990 baseline year.

The Gazprom gas monopoly said its companies would reduce emissions by 45 per cent in this period. The state owned utility RAO UES and Gazprom account for 38 per cent of the overall greenhouse gas emissions in Russia. The companies say they will be able to cover the costs of their technological retooling by selling their emission quotas.

Australian challenge

Russian power lines. Photo: RAO UES of Russia
Russia is an oil producing country and its power lines carry electricity generated primarily by the burning of fossil fuels. This combustion emits greenhouse gases responsible for global warming.
© RAO UES of Russia
The utility and transport sectors account for 40 per cent of the country's emissions. The companies that have invested in utility and transport enterprises are expected to receive investment from Europe in exchange for reducing their carbon dioxide emissions.

In Australia, Russia�s ratification of the Kyoto Protocol is seen as having the potential to open up renewable industry development opportunities for Australian companies if Australia too ratifies the protocol.

Australia has followed the United States in its refusal to ratify. The leaders of both countries have viewed the protocol as too expensive for their economies to bear.

Ian Lloyd-Besson, President of the Australian Wind Energy Association (AusWEA) said, "Governments around the world are committing to higher renewable energy targets and ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. Australia, the worst greenhouse polluter per person in the world, has an obligation to do the same."

From our website, see:

News: Putin moves Russia towards ratifying the Kyoto Protocol

Factfile: The Kyoto Protocol

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