Moscow — Russia’s lower house of parliament ratified the Kyoto Protocol on Friday, putting the sweeping environmental pact firmly on the road to realization and giving Russia a hoped-for step forward toward joining the World Trade Organization.
Russia’s ratification is necessary to put the pact – intended to combat global warming – into effect, because the United States had refused to approve it. The pact must be ratified by 55 countries that accounted for at least 55 per cent of global emissions in 1990. The United States alone accounted for 36 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions in 1990.
The State Duma voted 334-73 to approve the treaty, which gives industrialized nations eight years to cut their collective emissions of six key greenhouse gases to 5.2 per cent below 1990 levels.
Russia’s upper house is to vote on the protocol on Wednesday and is likely to approve it, sending it to President Vladimir Putin, who is expected to sign. Once that is done, the climate treaty will have passed the required threshold – ratification by 55 countries that accounted for at least 55 per cent of global emissions in 1990.
Although presidential economic adviser Andrei Illarionov has fiercely opposed ratification, Mr. Putin vowed to speed up the process in May in return for the European Union’s support of Russia’s bid to join the World Trade Organization.
“By ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, Russia in fact is strengthening its international authority and becoming an ecological leader,” Vladimir Grachev, chairman of the Duma’s environmental committee, told the chamber before the vote.
First Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov has said restrictions of greenhouse-gas emissions imposed by the pact will not affect Russia’s economic growth in the near future. Even after a five-year economic recovery, the collapse of Soviet-era industry in the 1990s has left emissions 30 per cent below the baseline.
Mr. Zhukov has said Russia would try to negotiate terms for its participation in cutting emissions after 2012.
In an interview last week with a German newspaper, Russia’s minister for economic development and trade, German Gref, said the Kyoto Protocol should provide the means to reduce wasteful energy consumption by increasing investment in Russian industry.
He indicated that he also wants to use the pact to help modernize Russian industry. The mechanism offers the opportunity to any developed country to achieve part of its Kyoto commitment by investing in emissions reduction projects in other developed countries to get carbon credits.
A top candidate for such help would be Russia’s electricity monopoly, Unified Energy System, which produces nearly 30 per cent of total Russian emissions.
Mr. Grachev said Kyoto would “open up the possibility of significantly solving (Russia’s) problems of energy efficiency, energy supply and adaptation to climatic changes by receiving in fact free international resources.”