Russia ratifies Kyoto Protocol

Russia's State Duma has voted overwhelmingly in favour of ratifying the Kyoto Protocol by 334 votes to 73. This means the agreement should become internationally legally binding early next year.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gave his support for the Protocol earlier this month (see related story) before sending the decision to the lower house.

Environmentalists and politicians were quick to praise the decision to ratify.

Klaus Toepfor, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said: “The fight against climate change has been under starters orders for far too long. But it is finally out of the blocks and running as a result of this very welcome decision to ratify by the Russian Parliament.”

President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, said: “We are happy that the Russian Duma has decided to ratify. I would also like to thank President Putin for his personal support for this process.”

To those who argue that the Protocol does not go far enough in reducing emissions, he added that the agreement may not be perfect but was the only effective tool available to the international community.

Friends of the Earth International’s climate campaigner Catherine Pearce said:

“At long last it looks like the Kyoto climate treaty is finally going to come into effect, and the world can begin the crucial battle against global warming, the biggest environmental threat the planet faces. But international pressure must be put on the United States and Australia to join the fight too. If they want to be responsible members of the world community they must wake up to the threat of climate change, sign up to Kyoto, and take urgent action to cut their emissions.”

Kyoto’s entry into force will mean that emissions now have a monetary value and provide certainty to investors in the global emissions trading markets. Carbon has seen a jump in its traded price since Putin voiced his support, and many commentators believe Russian involvement will give a major boost to energy efficiency projects (see related story).

Russia is likely to benefit enormously from emissions trading as its greenhouse gas emissions are currently some 30% below 1990 levels. The Protocol requires that Russia not exceed 1990 levels during 2008-2012, meaning it will have a large surplus of emission quotas to sell to other ratified countries.

In addition, it is likely to benefit from Joint Implementation projects which allow Kyoto signatories to carry out emission reduction projects in other countries and count the achieved reductions against their own targets. Several EU states have already expressed strong interest in investing in JI projects in Russia.

Full ratification of the Protocol would also provide a legal base for international negotiations to start next year on a post-2012 climate change regime.

All commentators now agree that the US is looking globally isolated. Romano Prodi said he hoped the US would now re-consider its position.

“The United States should not abstain from the one fight that is crucial for the future of mankind.”

By David Hopkins

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