Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov recently said that Moscow was examining the Kyoto Protocol's ratification from the viewpoint of how it corresponded to Russia's national interests and the consequences it may entail for the country's economic growth rates.
The industrial countries that have ratified the Protocol account for only 44% of all greenhouse gas emissions today. The United States, which releases 36% of all emissions, has refused to ratify the document. In the obtaining situation, Russia, which accounts for 17% of the global emissions, holds the future of the Protocol in its hands, because it will only enter into force when 55 countries responsible for 55% of all carbon-dioxide emissions ratify it.
Public opinion with regard to the Kyoto Protocol has changed sharply over the recent years of discussions. The document is increasingly being labelled a global 21st century commercial contract, rather than a climatic agreement. In a March 13, 2001 statement, US President George Bush substantiated Washington's position on the Kyoto Protocol, noting that data it contained amounted to incomplete scientific knowledge about various global warming factors and could not, therefore, serve as a basis for practical conclusions.
The Protocol's scientific substantiation was provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The group's last report, which was published in 2001 offered the following conclusion: average air temperatures have increased by 0.6 degrees over the last 100 years as a result of man's impact on the environment and greater carbon dioxide emissions, which cause the greenhouse effect.
However, Russian scientist Kondratyev, who is an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, as well as being an honorary foreign member of the American Meteorological Society and Britain's Royal Meteorological Society, believes that the report does not necessarily point to these conclusions. Indeed, the report's authors admit that the results of climatic studies cannot be seen as convincing proof of a clear cause-and-effect link between man's impact and changing global surface temperatures. In particular, the report claims that terrestrial temperatures have risen by 0.6 degrees over the last 100 years, increasing by 0.53 percent between 1910 and 1945, which is when much lower emission levels were registered. However, the most astonishing aspect of the Kyoto Protocol is that it says nothing about water vapours, which are the main greenhouse gas, as they account for 62% of the entire greenhouse effect. Such "discrepancies" lend credence to the claims that, instead of fighting the greenhouse effect, the Kyoto Protocol has an ulterior motive.
For instance, the Protocol's economic mechanisms are now being mentioned ever more often, which confirms the idea that the protocol is, in reality, a global 21st century commercial contract.
The Kyoto Protocol stipulates quantitative commitments to reduce carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. Consequently, 39 countries, which are listed in the protocol's B supplement, should cut total carbon dioxide emissions by 5.2 percent on 1990 levels. Each of these countries should abide by individual greenhouse gas emission quotas. Fines are envisaged for violators, which would also be deprived of their quota-trade rights stipulated in the agreement.
Should Russia generate 40% more electricity by 2010 (in line with its energy strategy), then it would burn up a lot of fuel, thus exceeding 1990 emissions by 30.8%. In this case, Russia would have to pay huge fines. Indeed, Boldyrev, D. Sc. (Engineering) has put this figure at $16-17 billion per year.
If Russia were to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, it would mean a self-imposed ban on supplying the economy with oil, gas and coal in excess of 1990 levels. However, this runs directly counter to Vladimir Putin's plans to double GDP over the next decade.
There is a link between economic growth and greater carbon dioxide emissions, while the so-called industrial production axiom should also be mentioned. Power-generation volumes should be doubled to attain annual economic growth of 2-3%. Chinese and US carbon dioxide emissions soared by 25% and 15%, respectively, in the 1990s, when both countries (particularly China) achieved substantial economic growth.
The European situation is quite unique. Denmark's carbon dioxide emissions total 440% of the CO2 volumes that can be absorbed by local vegetation. The breakdown for Germany, Great Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands is 500%, 670%, 860% and 1,500%, respectively. The US situation closely resembles that in Russia, with US carbon dioxide emissions amounting to 96% of the volume that can be absorbed by local vegetation. Meanwhile, Russian carbon dioxide emission levels totalled 22-23% in 1990.
Therefore, Russia is rendering free of charge substantial environmental services to Europe that are yet to be evaluated economically. Nonetheless, European Commission members have issued categorical statements-cum-ultimatums with regard to Russia's possible refusal to join this agreement as soon as possible. The position of Europe is quite understandable. It is just as obvious, though, that Russia should act in line with its own national interests, first and foremost.
Igor Ivanov's recent statement should not be interpreted as Russia's refusal to co-operate with other countries in environmental protection. On the contrary, Ivanov stressed that Russia had always advocated multilateral machinery. However, in his opinion, this issue should be decided in the UN.