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Russia's dilemma - Is Russia going to sign the Kyoto treaty?

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RUSSIA'S DILEMMA: IS RUSSIA GOING TO SIGN THE KYOTO TREATY? Global warming is a scientifically recognized process of the Earth's ozone and atmospheric decay that was first put on the political agenda by the UN(United Nations) with the adoption of the UNFCCC(UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) in 1992 and it came into force in 1994.1 The main reason behind the global warming is the unregulated and irresponsible use of fossil energy, which results in the release of climatic gases and eventually a rise in the global temperature. Unfortunately, an increase in the global temperature leads to the rising of the sea level, changes in precipitation and wind patterns, loss of biological diversity and a decrease in the quality of life, especially in the poorer parts of the world. The challenges involved with solving climate issues is first and foremost connected to use of fossil energy, and can generally be solved by increasing production of renewable energy and efforts made towards increased energy efficiency. If we continue to use fossil energy as we do today, we will experience a quadrupling of the world's greenhouse gas emissions in the course of the next 125 years, as the result of energy consumption and increase in population.2 The Kyoto Protocol, adopted at a December 1997 conference in Kyoto, Japan, obliges all signatory countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by a yearly average of 5.2 percent in order to reach a goal by 2012 where participating countries are producing fewer greenhouse gases than they were in 1990. However, only developed countries are covered by the protocol because developed nations are responsible for the lions' share of greenhouse gas emissions that lead to the global warming and risk the Earth's environmental balance. ...read more.


Also, Vladimir Putin's climate change and economic advisor, Illarinov, points out that the United States and Australia opted out of the protocol after claiming that compliance would be too costly. Illarinov argues compliance with Kyoto would be even less affordable for Russia whose economy is only a fraction of the US or Australian economies.13 Other argument that the Russian government makes is that with the United States rejecting the treaty and China and India being kept out of the protocol, there would be no significant buyers for Russia's 'hot air' other than Japan, Canada and maybe few countries in Europe.14 Russian officials argue that they wouldn't be able to make billion dollars of profit as calculated and Kyoto treaty's costs will be more than its profits for Russia. Another reason why Russian government hesitates to ratify the Kyoto treaty is the Russian government officers' fear that signing the protocol would put constraints on Russia's economic and industrial growth and damage Russia's international competitiveness. Especially, Illarionov argues that even though currently Russia's emissions are lower than the 1990 goal, they are, with economic and industrial growth and Putin's plan to double gross domestic product in 10 years, again beginning to rise, which would leave Russia with an even smaller margin to trade in Kyoto emissions credits.15 Russians even consider the likelihood of stronger Kyoto emissions curbs later, which can eventually turn Russia into a buyer rather than a seller of emissions credits. In a study released last year by Alexander Nakhutin, Russia's chief greenhouse gas emissions forecaster, it is found that Russian greenhouse gas emissions have ballooned as much as 13% annually. If Nakhutin's projects are correct- and he is one of only a very few researchers with access to the best Russian industrial data, Russian carbon emissions will be 6% greater than they were in 1990, or %30 higher than originally envisioned. ...read more.


Recently, also a conspiracy theory has been created in media that the US administration attempts to lobby Moscow to take a particular stand on the Kyoto Protocol and pressure Russia to delay its decision. It is more interesting that former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former US President George Bush Sr. made a visit to Kremlin to discuss about the Kyoto Protocol and other energy resources. Experts point out that the Washington administration argues about the fundamental flaw of Kyoto Protocol. So if the Kyoto Protocol comes into force, this argument loses a lot of strength and it would be a foreign policy disaster for the Bush administration.26 This is why it sounds pretty logical that the US administration may want to put pressure on Russia to delay its decision. In conclusion, Russia has been going through a tough transition period from totalitarianism to democracy and it is still in the progress of building an effective environmental regime. Limited resources, personnel shortages, and perceived conflicts between environmental and economic goals are few of the several reasons that explain why this progress has a slow pace. However, even more intractable obstacles include lack of training or experience in self-government, corruption, poorly functioning legal systems, and a basic lack of trust in government.27 In this kind of an atmosphere, having consensus and alliances necessary to make environmental decisions as well as developing effective environmental laws is a big challenge. This is why Russia has been still struggling to come to a firm decision about ratifying the Kyoto protocol since 1997 and it unfortunately seems like this reluctance will continue at least for a while... . ...read more.

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