MOSCOW - As the host of
a key global-warming conference this fall, and as a potential
signatory with a swing vote on the contentious Kyoto Protocol,
Russia has found itself at the forefront of the climate-change
"We are looking forward to serious, interesting
discussions," Yury Izrael, chair of the conference's
organizing committee, told reporters Wednesday. "We are not
going to create new contradictions but ... find out what is really
going on on this planet - warming or cooling."
This question and whether or not global warming poses a big
enough threat to warrant the solution's price tag are at the heart
of reports - more than 500 of them - submitted for experts'
discussion in Moscow this September when they gather at the third
International Conference on Climate Changes.
The 1997 Kyoto Protocol seeks to minimize climate changes by
reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and methane, gases believed
to cause global warming by trapping the sun's heat in the
In order for it to graduate into a binding treaty, states
representing 55 percent of global emissions must sign on.
Russia alone accounts for 17.4 percent of global emissions.
Given the other, mostly European, signatories, Kyoto will pass if
Many countries - most prominently, the United States - argue
that the protocol's requirements are too expensive to implement.
The agreement calls for developed countries to reduce emissions
to 5 percent below their 1990 level as early as 2008.
U.S. President George W. Bush provoked the ire of many
signatories when he rejected the pact in 2001, saying the tough
regulations would choke the country's economy.
The U.S. Center for Public Policy Research said in an April
report that if Kyoto is ratified, gas prices would rise from 14
cents to $0.66 a gallon by 2010, while electricity prices would
increase anywhere from 2 percent to 86 percent, costing the U.S.
economy $400 billion per year.
Russia does not have a comparable report quantifying the
potential economic toll, Izrael said.
"The most important issue - whether [ratifying the Kyoto
Protocol] will bring about an improvement of the climate or its
stabilization, or its worsening, is not clear," he said.
The conference is expected to attract 1,200 participants from
around the world. Scientists from 52 countries have submitted 530
reports for the conference so far. Politicians and economists will
grapple with the short-and long-term consequences of climate
change, he said.