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Kremlin Adviser Says Kyoto Can't Stop Climate Change

Date: 23-Sep-10
Country: RUSSIA
Author: Conor Humphries

The Kyoto Protocol will have virtually no impact on slowing global warming unless it expands to take in the United States, China and more developing countries, Russia's chief climate negotiator said on Wednesday.

Russia is the world's fourth largest emitter of carbon dioxide and a key player in United Nations talks about whether to extend Kyoto when its first phase lapses in 2013, or replace it with a wider treaty that brings in poorer nations.

President Dmitry Medvedev's top climate change adviser, Alexander Bedritsky, said Russia is demanding a new deal as the 40 industrialized nations bound by Kyoto represent only 28 percent of global emissions.

"28 percent of the world cannot change anything," Bedritsky told journalists on the sidelines of an Arctic forum in Moscow.

"Countries can work and fulfill their targets, but nothing will change. The burden on the climate will grow."

Instead, the next round of U.N. climate talks in Cancun, Mexico in December should develop a non-binding agreement between countries representing 81 percent of emissions agreed at a U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen last year, he said.

The Kyoto Protocol was agreed at a 1997 U.N. conference to reduce greenhouse gases emitted by developed countries by an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels during 2008-2012. A total of about 190 nations have ratified the pact.

"We want cooperation in the period after 2012 to be all inclusive," Bedritsky said. The United States, which refused to ratify Kyoto, agreed to the Copenhagen deal.

Bedritsky said no binding agreement would be signed at the conference in Cancun but that he expected progress toward a deal. At the top of Russia's list of demands is recognition for the role its vast forests play in absorbing carbon dioxide.

While many Western nations are struggling to meet their Kyoto obligations, in 2008 Russia was 33 percent below its Kyoto target of keeping emissions below 1990 levels, mostly due to the collapse of high-polluting Soviet industries after 1991.

Moscow plans to let emissions rise from current levels to between 15 and 25 percent bellow 1990 levels by 2020, Bedritsky said, despite pleas by many nations for a tougher goal.

RUSSIAN DOUBTS RECEED

Russia developed a reputation as a climate skeptic after several senior officials suggested global warming might help Russia by easing its harsh winters, with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin saying Russia could save money on fur coats.

But a deadly heat wave this summer broke all temperature records, killed dozens in wildfires and destroyed a quarter of Russia's grain crop, prompting Medvedev to publicly acknowledge that the country's climate was changing.

Bedritsky said Russia had decided the threats from global warming outweigh the potential benefits, which include saving on heating costs and increasing the amount of arable land.

"But this does not counterbalance the need to act to decrease the human burden on climate and the ecosystem, the need to adapt to the changes and the need to neutralize the dangerous consequences."

He said scientists cannot say unequivocally there is a direct link between climate change and the heat wave in Russia and the flooding in Pakistan, but that they are obvious changes. "But I think of course you can consider them as signs of changes," he added.

(Editing by Matthew Jones)

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