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Russia Steps Up Pledge For Climate Action

Date: 23-Nov-09
Country: SWEDEN
Author: Simon Johnson and Oleg Shchedrov

STOCKHOLM - Russia toughened its plans to curb harmful greenhouse gas emissions on Wednesday in a rare encouraging development before United Nations climate talks next month.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said President Dmitry Medvedev had promised Russia would reduce emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020. Russia had previously said it would cut emissions by 10-15 percent.

The deepening cut from a 1990 baseline nevertheless puts Russian emissions on an upward trajectory from now. But participants in an EU-Russia summit latched on to the pledge as a positive development before December 7-18 climate talks in Copenhagen. Russia lags far behind top emitters the United States and China, but its attitude to the talks carries weight.

"I very much welcome the signal from President Medvedev today of their proposed emissions reduction target of 25 percent. This is indeed very encouraging," Barroso told a news conference after a European Union-Russia summit in Sweden.

Vladimir Chizhov, Russia's ambassador to the EU, told reporters Medvedev had mentioned a figure of 22-25 percent at the talks. Russia is the world's number three greenhouse gas emitter.

The new goal will still allow a rise from current levels. Russia's emissions, which have plunged since the collapse of the Soviet Union's inefficient smokestack industries, were 34 percent below 1990 levels in 2007.

"Russian emissions should at least be kept 35 percent below 1990 levels in 2020," said Olga Senova of the Russian Socio-Ecological Union, a network of environmental groups.

And Lars Haltbrekken, chairman of Friends of the Earth Norway, said 25 percent should be an "absolute minimum."

Expectations for a deal in Copenhagen have slipped to a "political agreement," covering core issues such as cuts in emissions by developed nations and aid to the poor. Time has run out to achieve a legally binding text with U.S. legislation bogged down and China reluctant to commit.

CHINA, U.S.

But countries such as Brazil, South Korea and the United States have shown increased willingness to take action in recent days. U.S. President Barack Obama said on Tuesday Copenhagen should cut a deal with "immediate operational effect."

Cuts announced so far by the rich fall far short of the average 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels for developed nations outlined in one scenario by the U.N. climate panel to avoid the worst of droughts, heatwaves, rising sea levels.

Brazil's Presdient Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva told the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit that rich nations "talk a lot but do little."

He also said: "We have to prevent the U.S. laying the blame on China and vice versa -- they both use this to escape their own responsibility."

"Together we can put pressure on China and the U.S.," he said of leaders planning to go to the Copenhagen talks. U.S.

President Barack Obama, visiting China from November 15-18, says he will go to Denmark if he can help clinch a deal.

In London, a U.N. report said that women bear the brunt of the harmful impacts of global warming but are mostly ignored in the debate over how to halt it.

In its 2009 state of the world population report, the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) said the world's poor are the most vulnerable to climate change and the majority of the 1.5 billion people living on $1.0 a day or less are women.

And in Paris, Valery Giscard d'Estaing, the former president who championed France's dependence on nuclear power, took a tilt at wind turbines by saying they were blighting France.

"The French landscape is one of the world's most beautiful but it's sensitive, fragile," said Giscard, 83 years old. "When I was President I tried to protect it.

(With extra reporting by Sarah Marsh in Berlin, Kate Kelland in London and Muriel Boselli in Paris, writing by Alister Doyle, editing by Janet McBride)

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