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The St.Petersburg Times - the English-language newspaper of St. Petersburg, Russia.

#866, Tuesday, May 13, 2003


Russia Key To Ratification Of Kyoto Climate Protocol

By Yevgenia Borisova

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 debate.

"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 atmosphere.

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 Russia joins.

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.
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