EU Ministers Urge Russia to Ratify Climate Protocol

MOSCOW, Russia, March 5, 2003 (ENS) - Three top level European environment officials arrived in Moscow today for a three day attempt to persuade Russia to complete ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, and to discuss a strengthening of cooperation in the fight against climate change. The European Union member states have all ratified the climate treaty, and now Russia's ratification is necessary to enable the protocol to enter into force.

EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom, together with environment ministers Altero Matteoli of Italy and Vasso Papandreou of Greece, which currently occupies the six month EU Presidency, are in Moscow through Friday.


Russian Energy Minister Igor Yusufov (Photo courtesy Norwegian Petroleum Directorate)
Their schedule includes meetings with the Ministry for Economic Development and Trade, Energy Minister Igor Yusufov, representatives of the Duma, and nongovernmental organizations. This visit to Russia is the latest initiative in the European Union's ongoing efforts to secure the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol and effective multilateral action to combat climate change.

In February 2002, Yusufov announced Russia's intention to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. He stressed that Russia is making maximum efforts to reduce the level of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.

Under the protocol, an addition to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 37 industrialized nations have agreed to cut their emissions of six greenhouse gases linked to global warming. Thirty-nine countries were to have been governed by the original agreement signed in Kyoto, Japan in December 1997, but the Bush administration in March 2001 said that the United States would not ratify the protocol, and Australia has followed suit.

The protocol will not take effect until it is ratified by 55 percent of the nations responsible for at least 55 percent of the total carbon dioxide emissions in 1990.


EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom (right) and Belgian Minister for Energy and Sustainable Development Olivier Deleuze participate in climate talks that forged the Kyoto Protocol, July 2001. (Photo courtesy IISD)
Commissioner Wallstrom said, "The world is waiting for Russia to demonstrate that it is ready and willing to become a major player in the multilateral efforts to combat climate change. I trust that Russia will live up to its responsibilities and political commitments. The EU is looking forward to cooperating even closer with Russia to fight this global challenge."

As of February 6, the latest date for which figures are available, 105 countries responsible for 43.9 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions in 1990 have ratified or acceded to the Kyoto Protocol.

Ratification by Russia is essential, as Russia is responsible for 17.4 percent of the 1990 emissions. Russian ratification would push the total percentage of the greenhouse gas over the 55 percent that triggers the protocol's entry into force.

The countries that ratify the agreement must reduce emissions of carbon dioxide to an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels during the five year period 2008 to 2012. But the Russian Federation would not have to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions below 1990 levels. The terms of the protocol allow Russian emissions to remain at 100 percent of 1990 levels.


Greek Environment Minister Vasso Papandreou served as European Commissioner for Social Affairs from 1989-1993. (Photo courtesy European Commission)
Environment Minister Papandreou said, "Russia has the honor of running the anchor leg of this relay race for ratification. We hope that Russia will cross the finish line so that the applause from around the world starts."

"All of us," said Papandreou, "15 Member States in the EU as well as all the acceding countries who have already ratified it - view the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol as an important step in addressing climate change and starting to reduce its impacts. We believe that the Kyoto Protocol is good for Russia, and most importantly it is good for the world."

Minister Matteoli observed, "The ratification of the protocol will allow Russia to create an important channel for technological cooperation with Europe in the energy sector and in forest management."


Italian Environment Minister Altero Matteoli (Photo courtesy Government of Italy)
The European environment officials will attempt to persuade Russia to ratify by emphasizing the economic advantages the country would gain by ratification such as participation in the so-called "flexible mechanisms" that the protocol permits.

The international emissions trading regime established by the Kyoto Protocol allows industrialized countries to buy and sell emissions credits amongst themselves. They will also be able to acquire "emission reduction units" by financing projects reducing greenhouse gas emissions in other developed countries through a mechanism under the protocol known as Joint Implementation.

By creating a framework for emissions trading, Russia will be able to monetize the surplus of emission rights that it is likely to have given that its emissions in the first commitment period under the protocol - 2008 through 2012 - will probably be lower than its emissions stabilization target under the protocol, the European officials say.

Russian companies will have access to Joint Implementation projects that could be developed with partners from other developed countries. Through these projects, Russian companies will have access to new technologies and management systems.


Siberian permafrost melts in a warming climate. (Photo courtesy Russian Academy of Sciences)
Russia will benefit from measures implemented worldwide to fight climate change, the European officials say, measures that will diminish the adverse effects that climate change already has had, and will have, on Russia.

The thawing of permafrost in particular, which is foreseen to be one of the effects of climate change in Russia, carries with it considerable economic costs in terms of damage to infrastructure such as buildings and railways. If climate change is reduced, through strict control of emissions, costs for Russia will be lessened.

The European environment officials say that Russia's concerns such as taking into account the carbon absorption of its forests and conditions for access to the Kyoto flexible mechanisms "have been taken into consideration throughout the international climate change negotiations," and Russian ratification will be "an important recognition of the spirit of compromise in which the negotiations took place."