- The Washington Times - Friday, January 30, 2004

The Kyoto global-warming treaty would constrict Russia’s economic growth and the country should not sign it in its current form, a top economic adviser to President Vladimir Putin said yesterday.

“So far what we can see does not provide enough convincing evidence that would allow us to sign this document,” Andrei Illarionov, Mr. Putin’s chief economic adviser, said at the National Press Club in Washington.

The protocol is a United Nations-brokered agreement to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Most scientists believe the gases trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming, a phenomenon that could alter the climate significantly in the next century.

The United States, the world’s heaviest polluter, rejected the treaty in 2001. Since nations producing 55 percent of greenhouse gases must ratify Kyoto before it takes effect, Russia’s participation is necessary.

Mr. Illarionov caused a stir in December when he said Russia could not accept the treaty in its current form. Another government official quickly countered that Russia was moving toward ratification.

The comments were widely interpreted as political posturing as the country bargained for easier terms under the protocol and for membership in the World Trade Organization.

With some industrialized countries, like the United States and Australia, rejecting the pact, and developing countries like China and Mexico exempted, Mr. Illarionov yesterday said Kyoto would unfairly restrict Russia’s economic growth.

“It looks like the protocol itself is quite discriminatory against Russia,” he said.

The Kyoto Protocol calls for nations to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, below 1990 levels in an effort to slow the pace of global warming.

It is strongly backed by the 15-nation European Union, though some officials in Brussels are apparently having second thoughts.

Loyola de Palacio, the Spanish EU commissioner responsible for energy issues, said last week that the European Union might have to review its stance if Russia refuses to ratify Kyoto.

Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom yesterday chastised her colleague for the comment.

“I find it astonishing that at a time when we are getting industry on board, at a time when we have the public on board because they understand the consequences of extreme weather … that politicians start to send some ambiguous messages. It is not very helpful if colleagues start questioning the issue,” the Swedish minister said.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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