News of the WeekClimate Change

Russia Prepares to Ratify Kyoto

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  28 May 2004:
Vol. 304, Issue 5675, pp. 1225
DOI: 10.1126/science.304.5675.1225a

MOSCOW—Snubbing a new report from the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), President Vladimir Putin has promised that Russia will move to ratify the Kyoto Protocol to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Russia's ratification would bring the treaty into force. Putin has been coy on commitment, even joking last fall at a conference about the economic benefits of melting permafrost. But on 21 May, after Russia and the European Union had agreed on Russia joining the World Trade Organization, Putin pledged to “hasten Russia's steps towards ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.” That statement marked a sharp turnabout from 3 days earlier, when the Putin Administration announced that it had received the RAS report and “would make a decision that meets Russia's interests.”

The RAS panel included academy president Yuri Osipov and ardent treaty critic Andrey Illarionov, an economic adviser to Putin. Illarionov has sought to rebut the view that Russia stands to reap a windfall by selling carbon credits, arguing instead that a vibrant economy would soon bring Russia back above 1990 emissions levels, the Kyoto cap. That view held sway within the panel, says chair Yuri Israel, director of the Global Climate Institute in Moscow. To hew to Soviet-era levels, “we will have to develop or buy new technologies very soon,” he says. At its final meeting on 14 May, he says, the panel concluded that the protocol “does not have a scientific basis and is ineffective at stabilizing greenhouse gases.”

Observers suspect that Putin was using Kyoto as a bargaining chip all along. “I bear no grudge,” says Israel, who notes that the RAS report—released early this week—did not explicitly advise Putin on ratification. That, he says, “is a political decision.”

Navigate This Article