- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 30, 2004

Russia’s government yesterday said it would approve a pact to reduce pollution, opening the way for adoption of an agreement on global warming already rejected by the United States.

Russia’s parliament still must approve the Kyoto protocol, a United Nations-brokered deal to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. But President Vladimir Putin’s Cabinet yesterday signed off on the agreement, an important step toward implementation as soon as next year.

Mr. Putin’s decision was crucial for the pact. Nations producing 55 percent of greenhouse gases must ratify it, making Russia’s participation all but mandatory.

Mr. Putin and his economic advisers had complained that the agreement would choke Russia’s economy, but in May struck a deal that linked Russian support for Kyoto with European support on joining the World Trade Organization.

Andrei Illarionov, Mr. Putin’s economic adviser, said yesterday’s decision was “motivated purely by politics — not by science or economics.”

The United States, the world’s heaviest polluter, formally rejected the treaty in March 2001. Other nations, including Australia, also have declined to ratify the pact because it does not include developing countries and would restrict economic growth.

“I oppose the Kyoto Protocol because it exempts 80 percent of the world, including major population centers such as China and India, from compliance, and would cause serious harm to the U.S. economy,” President Bush said in 2001.

Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry also opposes the Kyoto Protocol as ineffective, according to his campaign documents.

Implementation of the pact is likely to have little or no immediate impact on the United States.

The agreement would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions below 1990 levels for participating countries. The National Academy of Sciences in a 2001 report said greenhouse gases are accumulating in the Earth’s atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing temperatures to rise.

“Global warming could well have serious adverse societal and ecological impacts by the end of this century,” the report said.

Many nations, including the 25-nation European Union, support the Kyoto pact as the best available way to protect the environment and welcomed Russia’s decision.

“This is a huge success for the international fight against climate change,” said Romano Prodi, president of the EU’s executive commission.

World Bank Vice President Ian Johnson said Russia’s decision “represents an important step in implementing actions to address the world’s changing climate.”

But penalties for failure to meet emissions goals were largely stripped out of the agreement in 2001. Scientists for Global Responsibility, a British nonprofit organization that supports the Kyoto Protocol, said the diminished pact would have a small and insufficient impact on global warming.

And many economists have warned that the agreement, if its terms are fulfilled, would slow economic growth. Mr. Illarionov, in particular, has produced detailed presentations projecting a falloff in Russia’s economy as the country restricts pollution.

Myron Ebell, an environmental policy expert at the anti-Kyoto Competitive Enterprise Institute, said the costs involved in implementing the agreement would eventually sideline it.

European industries that spew pollution would either move to countries where Kyoto does not apply or nations will decide not to comply, he said.

“This whole effort … is a dead end. The richest countries are finding out they can’t afford it,” Mr. Ebell said.

This article is based in part on wire-service reports.

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