Kyoto Protocol: Pros & Cons
Want to know more about global politics?
Subscribe to our distribution list

Until recently the subject of climate was of concern only to the
meteorologists, whereas today it has become a global political
issue. Now that the United States has declined to sign the Kyoto
Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate
Change, the protocol’s future depends on Russia.

This Protocol will enter into force after it is ratified by
enough countries to account for a total of, at least, 55 percent of
all carbon dioxide emissions. This target figure cannot be reached
unless Russia, which accounts for around 17 percent of carbon
dioxide emissions, signs the protocol. That is why protocol
advocates, primarily from the European Union, seek to influence
Russia’s position through attractive offers and much jawboning.
There is, however, no common consensus in Russia as to whether
Moscow should ratify the Kyoto Protocol or not.

On the eve of the opening of the World Conference on Climate
Change in Moscow in late September-early October 2003, Russia in
Global Affairs and the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy held a
conference named Ratification of the Kyoto Protocol: Economic
Impacts on Russia. The conference was attended by representatives
of all agencies, organizations and research centers dealing with
this issue. Speakers acknowledged that the problem is very
controversial and the choice that Russia is facing is a difficult
one. Victor Potapov, Chairman of the Board of the
Center for Joint Implementation Climatic Projects of the Russian
Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring
(Rosgidromet), said that “Russia will not benefit politically by
declining to ratify the Kyoto Protocol; yet it will not benefit
economically by ratifying it, as Russia does not have a national
system for regulating emissions of greenhouse gases… But by
delaying the building of such a system Russia will not benefit
either politically or economically.” The controversial nature of
the problem of ratifying the Kyoto Protocol necessitates its
additional study and an expert examination. “Any decision must be
preceded by a broad public discussion of the problem,” said
Andrei Bugrov, Deputy Chairman of the Board of the
Interros Holding Company. Joining in the discussion,
Alexander Dynkin, First Deputy Director of the
Institute of the World Economy and International Relations, Russian
Academy of Sciences, noted that, on the one hand, “the Kyoto
process was launched to counter global warming” and, on the other
hand, “geologists, for instance, maintain that the basic greenhouse
gas is water vapor, and its concentration in the atmosphere
actually does not depend on anthropogenic factors.” He added that
“in addition to water vapor, there is another problem: As early as
twenty years from now, emissions into the atmosphere resulting from
the melting of permafrost may exceed the man-made effect.” That is
why the Kyoto Protocol does not seem to be the best way to halt
climate change. The speaker strongly opposed “simplistic,
benefit-oriented approaches to the Kyoto process, as some think
that upon ratifying the protocol, Russia will immediately start
selling quotas and earning hundreds of billions… On the whole, the
Kyoto strategy is costly, but it undoubtedly orients business
toward investing in environmentally friendly energy-saving
technologies. Importantly, there could be the introduction of new
Russian technologies and for an increased demand for these
technologies.” Vincent Picket, the European
Commission’s Charg? d’Affaires in Russia, expressed confidence that
“economically Russia would gain from the international trade in
emissions and joint implementation projects. Russia would also
benefit from the transfer of up-to-date technologies and huge
investments.” A decision to decline to ratify the protocol “would
not earn Russia a kopeck.”

According to Rosgidromet Chairman Alexander
, his agency realizes “certain drawbacks and
discrepancies of some provisions of the Kyoto Protocol,” yet it has
recommended Russia’s government to ratify the document, “provided
certain preparations are made.” At the same time the protocol is
only “an initial step that must be made in order to jointly address
the global problem of greenhouse gas emissions.” Bedritsky pointed
out that the international negotiating process will continue, and
Russia must not find itself on the sidelines, as happened once
before when Russia applied for WTO membership. As a result, Russia
now has to incur additional expenses in order to join the group of
countries that formulate the rules of the game.

Sergei Roginko, the head of the Ecology and
Development Group at the Institute of Europe (Russian Academy of
Science), agreed that the Kyoto Protocol allows Russia to take part
in formulating rules of the game. He said: “There is currently only
one legitimate way to sell quotas. These are joint implementation
projects.” At the same time, he doubted that Russia will gain from
selling quotas: “This is not a sellers’ market but a buyers’
market; one can sell only a limited amount of quotas there.”

Unlike Roginko, Mukhamed Tsikanov, Deputy
Minister for Economic Development and Trade, expressed confidence
that “we really can get and, most likely, will get at least some
economic benefits from the protocol. One of them is capitalization
of carbon dioxide-disposing companies. Another is a real
opportunity to trade in quotas or use other flexibility mechanisms
of the Kyoto Protocol.”

Victor Danilov-Danilyan, Director of the
Institute of Water Problems, Russian Academy of Sciences, said he
believes that Russia would undoubtedly benefit from the
ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. “What is important in the
protocol is the joint implementation mechanism, rather than trade
in quotas. Even if there is no quota trade at all, the ratification
of the protocol would be very useful to Russia,” he said. “Of
course, there will be no rain of gold for Russia,” he added, “but
we must work. The economic consequences will be very favorable… We
cannot wait until an ideal document is worked out. If we wait, we
will all die, and our children will not be born. We must act.”

Anatoly Panfiliov, the leader of the Kedr
movement, agreed with him: “The Kyoto Protocol is the first step;
thereafter Russia can become an ecological donor.”

In the meantime, most of the experts, including proponents for
ratification, were unanimous that there is no strong evidence that
it is carbon dioxide that causes global warming. They pointed out
that the Kyoto Protocol is aimed at improving technologies, rather
than changing the climate. Generally speaking, this is an issue for
the world economy. “The Kyoto Protocol cannot solve the climate
problem,” said Igor Bashmakov, Executive Director
of the Center for Energy Efficiency. “It is not intended to save
the planet from global warming. Its exclusive goal is to help us
understand and assess our potential, expenditures and

The Kyoto process should serve as a vector for Russia in the
world development. “The Kyoto Protocol can serve as a technological
standard, from which we can start our stable development in some
reasonable direction,” Sergei Bobylev of the
Department of Economy, Moscow State University, said.

According to Mikhail Delyagin, Chairman of the
Presidium of the Institute of Globalization Problems, “it is not so
much a matter of ecology or international prestige, as a matter of
Russia’s new positioning in the world.” He pointed out that “we
must formulate our demands within the Kyoto protocol’s framework.
And since economic benefits do exist and since they are not
critical, we can insist on these demands.”

Leonid Grigoryev, President of the Association
of Independent Centers of Economic Analysis, pointed out that
“politically it is essential that Russia should not be considered a
country that has stopped the Kyoto process, yet there is no clarity
about concrete economic benefits… We are in the trap of our
superpower mentality: we are ashamed to bargain.” Grigoryev said
that “ultimately we will not earn much money by trading in quotas,
yet we must insist on our inclusion in all those mechanisms.” At
enterprise levels, quotas must be tied up with the investments,
apart from additional projects. “That would be useful to the
economy, since it implies additional investments in modernization,”
Grigoryev noted. In this connection, there arises another problem –
that of “creating domestic mechanisms and a very serious
coordination of our domestic and foreign economic policies.”

Mechanisms for making and implementing decisions related to the
Kyoto Protocol need to be carefully worked out. Vassily
, Vice President of SUAL-Holding, said that “the
Europeans’ wish to organize a market for their own products is
understandable, but there arises an important question: how can we
adapt our science and technology to this process?”

Vyacheslav Nikonov, President of the Polity
Foundation, said that “humankind has other important problems to
address, which requires economic growth, progress and development…
The danger of the greenhouse industrial gases for the Earth’s
climate has not been substantiated so far. Meanwhile, one billion
people in the world are starving; 1.6 billion people live without
electricity; 2.5 billion people consume biomass as an energy
source. Russia is now leading the world not only in fulfilling, but
even overfulfilling the Kyoto Protocol.” As regards a promise to
sell our quotas in the future, it is wrongheaded. Besides, he
added, “the United States, the basic potential buyer of quotas,
will never join the Kyoto Protocol,” while the European Union is an
uncooperative partner when it comes to Russia, and it is unlikely
to make concessions. Commitments under the protocol would impose
certain limitations on Russia. If Russia ratifies the Kyoto
Protocol, “we may simply sell our future economic growth at a price
that we do not even know yet,” Nikonov said.

Sergei Alexeyev, Chairman of the Committee for
Nature Management and Ecology, the Chamber of Commerce and
Industry, warned against making any rash decisions. He said he was
not sure that Russian industry could play a game of its own and
according to its own rules. Russia is not ready to sign the Kyoto
Protocol at the moment. He said, “There are sound economic
mechanisms in the Kyoto Protocol, yet it would be too early now to
assume its commitments,” and agreed that it is necessary to build a
national system of controlling greenhouse gas emissions.

Anatoly Zelinsky, member of the Board of
Unified Energy Systems, said the ratification of the protocol
should not be delayed, because otherwise the complaints made by the
European Union against Russia’s dumping practices would be further
aggravated with ecological complaints.

One of the problems involved in the Kyoto process is that the
protocol itself is not perfect. Yevgeny Utkin,
assistant to the head of Rosgidromet and Executive Secretary of the
interdepartmental Commission for Climate Change Problems, said that
“The Kyoto Protocol, in its present form, suits no one. It must be
modernized or replaced with a new agreement that would be based on
a technological breakthrough and economic efficiency, and that
would be global, that is, involving all countries and taking into
full account their specifics.”

The international community, including Russia, has yet to solve
many of the protocol-related problems. Sergei
, President of the TET-Technology 3000
innovation company, said that Russia should introduce its own
energy-saving technologies and offer them to the West. “When we
start addressing this problem, we will solve many others then.”

The Council on Foreign and Defense Policy and Russia in Global
Affairs will keep following the discussions on the Kyoto Protocol’s