The International Institute for Sustainable Development (iisd) presents
September 9 to 2 October 2003
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KYOTO VETO ‘WOULD THREATEN OTHER PROJECTS’
MOSCOW: Any Russian veto of the Kyoto pact to fight global warming would jeopardise international environmental cooperation in other fields, the head of a UN commission said yesterday. On Monday, President Vladimir Putin backed away from a Russian promise to swiftly ratify the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and one of his aides said at a World Climate Change Conference that Moscow doubted the science underpinning Kyoto. “If the Kyoto agreement doesn’t enter into force it will be very damaging for international environmental work,” said Boerge Brende, head of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development.
“Climate change is the biggest environmental challenge we face,” said Brende, who is also Norway’s environment minister, saying a warmer world could run a greater risk of droughts, floods, heatwaves, tornadoes and rising sea levels. He did not spell out what cooperation might be damaged. UN environmental goals include halving poverty and hunger in the developing world by 2015 without increasing pollution.
There are also pacts ranging from regulating dangerous chemicals to saving depleted fish stocks. Brende said however he was still confident Russia would approve the Kyoto agreement, which could collapse otherwise. Environmentalists say that if Russia vetoes Kyoto it could spur backtracking among the 119 nations that have ratified, including the European Union and Japan.
Their industries could question restricting emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, as required by the agreement, when they are not part of international law. “Russia has missed an opportunity to give multilateralism a big boost,” said Steve Sawyer, climate policy director at Greenpeace. Kyoto is a first step to limit emissions of gases blamed for blanketing the globe and driving up temperatures, and which mainly stem from the burning of fossil fuels. A UN panel of scientists expects that global temperatures will rise by 1.4-5.8 degrees Celsius by 2100 and Kyoto would halt the rise by a mere 0.15 degrees even if fully implemented.
The Government still believes Russia will sign up to the Kyoto protocol. Russian President Vladimir Putin this week backed away from Russia's earlier pledge to swiftly ratify a key United Nations pact on curbing global warming - a plan that will collapse without its backing. Mr Putin told a World Climate Change Conference in Moscow that Russia was "closely studying" its position on the Kyoto Protocol, but gave no time line for a decision. The cabinet minister driving New Zealand's climate change policy, Pete Hodgson, said those proclaiming the treaty dead were jumping the gun.
Those expecting major announcements at the conference had raised their expectations far too high.
"The (delegates) lathered themselves into disappointment when Putin didn't do the deed," Mr Hodgson said. "We knew it was an unlikely prospect. I think (ratification) will be some months away... Russia continues to say publicly it is committed to the ratification, they just won't say when."
Russia's decision was tied up with numerous other areas of trade talks and diplomacy. So far, nations representing 44 per cent of emissions have ratified but Moscow's 17 per cent gives it a veto. The United States had a 36 per cent share but pulled out, arguing Kyoto was too costly and wrongly excluded developing nations. "They matter. They have negotiating power... and have other matters they will want to talk to trading partners about.
Russia would be looking a "gift horse in the mouth" if it did not ratify as it would be the largest holders of carbon credits if the treaty did go ahead. Kyoto seeks to rein in emissions of gases like carbon dioxide from fossil fuels burnt in factories and cars that are blamed for blanketing the planet and driving up temperatures, raising sea levels and causing heatwaves, floods, droughts and tornadoes. Russia will have no problem reaching emissions goals because of the collapse of its Soviet-era heavy industry. But a US pullout from Kyoto in 2001 has undermined what might have been an $8.0 billion annual market for Russia, selling surplus emissions quotas abroad. "They are probably a bit disappointed that the price of carbon wouldn't be as high as it would have been," Mr Hodgson said.
Kyoto aims to cut the emissions of greenhouse gases by developed nations by 5.2 per cent below 1990 levels by 2008-12 and will only take effect after states accounting for 55 per cent of emissions, mainly carbon dioxide, have ratified the pact. If Kyoto did fall over, New Zealand would still proceed with other climate change policy such as finding alternative forms of energy and increasing efficiency. Kyoto related policies such as carbon charges were not intended to come into place before 2007 so New Zealand had not got ahead of itself in implementing climate change policy, Mr Hodgson said.
ICTSD Bridges Weekly
In his inaugural speech at the World Climate Change Conference in Moscow on 29 September, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave no indication of his government's intention to ratify the Kyoto Protocol in the near future, dashing hopes for the Protocol's expeditious entry into force. Proponents of the Protocol had hoped and expected that Putin would have used the conference to announce his country's ratification. In order to enter into force, countries representing 55 percent of 1990 greenhouse gas emissions must sign on to the Protocol. Russia's ratification is the key to entry into force, after the US -- the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases -- rejected the Protocol in 2001. Russia has been sending mixed signals, with Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov assuring the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development that his country would ratify in the "very near future," followed over the past year by contradictory statements by government officials.
Recently, Russian officials have been stressing the need for guarantees on investment and the sale of emission rights in order for the country to ratify. Russia has been expected to benefit financially by selling so called emission reduction credits to other countries, as its emissions have plummeted since the 1990 base year. Most other countries have seen their emissions grow, and developed countries will have trouble fulfilling their Kyoto emission reduction commitments domestically.
RATIFICATION LINKED TO CONCESSIONS IN WTO ACCESSION TALKS
Many observers remain puzzled as to why Russia, which stands to gain financially by ratifying, is stalling, and speculate that Russia may be looking for concessions in other areas, such as its WTO accession negotiations. Putin, in his opening speech, stressed that Russia is "closely studying and examining" ratification on economic and political grounds, giving no timetable for a decision. In response to calls for ratification from, among others, the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Executive Secretary Joke Waller-Hunter, Putin said Russia may in fact benefit from a warmer climate, especially in terms of agriculture, acknowledging however that problems elsewhere must be considered.
While the statement caused a shockwave among observers, this opinion has been expressed in the context of climate negotiations on a regular basis over the years. Putin also called for further research rather than action on climate change, which mirrors comments made in the US camp. Indeed, some point to pressure from the US as a factor behind the current Russian stance.
Others have suggested that Russian internal bureaucracy and lack of inter-departmental coordination may be holding up ratification, or that Russia -- a major oil and gas producer -- is worried about potential negative impacts on those markets. One Russian sceptic, Vyacheslav Nikonov, director of the Politika Foundation, listed a number of reasons to avoid ratification in an opinion piece in the Russian daily Pravda, including the fact that with the US out of the game, Russian gains from emissions trading would be much smaller than earlier projected. Further, the EU created its emissions trading scheme without consulting Russia, and the scheme would not provide Russia with the kind of market it had hoped. In fact, the fairly closed scheme would probably lead to trades being focussed on the new EU member states that would benefit from the influx of money and new technology.
Nikonov also pointed to concessions by the EU in the trade area that Russia had hoped for, but that had not been granted: on WTO accession, visa-free entry and anti-dumping investigations. He warned that with a number of uncertainties surrounding the effects of the Protocol on Russia and the potential of the emissions trading market, we cannot "sell our future economic growth for an unspecified price".
At the Moscow climate meeting, the EU, Canada and others were quick to respond and to reiterate their commitment to reducing emissions and to the Protocol. Chris Davies, a Member of the European Parliament said "it must be hoped that this announcement signals a last minute attempt at brinkmanship to extract further financial concessions out of the EU rather than heralding the collapse of the world's only agreement to curb global warming".
Canadian Environment Minister David Anderson remained optimistic, stressing his firm belief that Russia would come on board. According to Anderson, "there's absolutely nothing in today's statement to suggest they're falling back or away from that commitment".
Following the World Climate Change Conference, a ministerial consultation on the way forward under the UN Climate Change Convention is scheduled for 5-6 October in Rome. The next Conference of the Parties will be held from 1-12 December in Milan, Italy.
The Moscow Times
President Vladimir Putin said Monday that Russia has not made a decision on whether to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and that the government will not do so until it finishes studying the implications that ratification would have for the country. Putin, speaking at the opening ceremony of the five-day UN World Climate Change Conference, left the future of the Kyoto Protocol in limbo with his remarks and disappointed some attendees, who had hoped he might use the event to announce a ratification date. "The government is thoroughly considering and studying this issue, studying the entire complex of difficult problems linked with it," Putin said. "The decision will be made after this work has been completed. And, of course, it will take into account the national interests of the Russian Federation."
The Kyoto Protocol calls for signatory countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2012. Before taking effect, the treaty must be ratified by 55 or more countries and by those responsible for at least 55 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. Ratification by Russia would be sufficient to bring the protocol into force. Without Russia, however, it cannot take effect. UN officials taking the podium after Putin offered slightly barbed responses to Putin's declaration and urged the Russian government to ratify the treaty at the earliest possible date. "I must admit that I'd hoped that you would have been more specific about indicating an approximate date for Russian ratification of the Kyoto Protocol," said Joke Waller-Hunter, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, addressing Putin.
But, she added, "I trust that under your leadership, the Russian Federation will recognize its responsibility for multilateral action on a truly global issue." Others in attendance said they were not surprised. "We did not expect him to announce ratification," Canadian Environment Minister David Anderson said. "The government had made it abundantly clear that this was a science conference on climate change, not a political conference on Kyoto." Just before a short intermission, Putin addressed the conference again in what appeared to be an impromptu response to those calling for quick ratification. "They often say, either as a joke or seriously, that Russia is a northern country and if temperatures get warmer by 2 or 3 degrees Celsius, it's not such a bad thing. We could spend less on warm coats, and agricultural experts say grain harvests would increase further," he said.
Even so, he continued, "we must think about the consequences of these changes that we will face in certain regions where there will be droughts and where there will be floods." The seemingly light-hearted remarks fell flat with some attendees. Norwegian Environment Minister Boerge Brende strongly disagreed that warmer temperatures would be good for northern countries. "Climate change is the biggest and most serious environmental threat we face," he told Reuters. "In Norway, it will lead to much more extreme weather." Anderson, however, interpreted the remarks as a sign that Putin is serious about the Kyoto Protocol, despite lingering questions in the Russian scientific community. "He was ad-libbing there," he said. "He pointed out that there are some people [in Russia] who think that climate change is a good thing because it will reduce the amount of cold weather. He pointed out ... that there are even quite simplistic views in Russia which he has to overcome."
Furthermore, Anderson said, "I'm fully expecting [ratification] to occur within a year." Still, Russia's stalling over the issue since last summer -- when Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov announced that Russia would ratify Kyoto soon -- has seemed mysterious to some experts, who point to the economic windfall the country might receive under the treaty. According to the terms of the Kyoto Protocol, countries producing less greenhouse gases than in 1990 can sell their extra "credits" to overproducing countries, a clause that could provide Russia with an instant international commodity. Putin said Monday that Russian greenhouse emissions have decreased by 32 percent since 1990. A few observers have said Russia's consistent refusal to provide a concrete date for ratification seems to be at odds with the government's declared position.
"Colleagues in our European offices were pretty sure that Russia would ratify, based on what they were hearing from European negotiators, who were talking to the Russia government," said Eric Sievers, an American attorney and part of Baker & McKenzie's Global Climate Change Practice Group. "The signals from the Russian government to them were that Russia was going to ratify." Anderson said Russia might be looking to secure markets in Europe for its natural gas, which can be used to help reduce greenhouse emissions. "We think that the Russians have reason to make sure that their contributions to lowering greenhouse gases in Western Europe are properly appreciated," he said.
Sievers said the United States, which has snubbed the treaty entirely, might be pressuring Russia to hold out. "The rhetoric from Washington is constantly that this is a convention and a protocol that is fundamentally flawed," he said. "If the Kyoto Protocol comes into force, that argument loses a lot of strength. It would be a foreign policy disaster [for the Bush administration] if it did." The White House has repeatedly denied lobbying the Kremlin to take a particular stand on the Kyoto Protocol. David Halpern, a representative of the U.S. White House Office of Science and Technology Policy who attended the conference Monday, agreed with Putin that more research was needed. "I think Mr. Putin made a fine address, saying that more knowledge is needed to reduce uncertainty," Halpern said. "Most of the commentators [following Putin] acknowledged there is a large uncertainty, and that's one of the reasons the science continues." Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the UN Environment Program, disagreed. "Research, as important as it is, should not be an alibi for inaction," he said.
Canada will still implement its commitments to the Kyoto Protocol -- even if Russia backs out and leaves the international climate change treaty with no legal force, Environment Minister David Anderson said Monday. "Whether ratification takes place by Russia or not, Canada expects to continue to meet its minus six per cent target," Anderson told The Canadian Press in a phone interview from Moscow. "The faster we get going on climate change measures, the better off Canada will be." Anderson's comments followed Russian President Vladimir Putin's address on the first day of the UN World Climate Change Conference in Moscow -- in which he said that Russia has not yet committed to ratifying the treaty. "The government is thoroughly considering and studying this issue, studying the entire complex of difficult problems linked with it," Putin said. "The decision will be made after this work has been completed, and of course it will take into account the national interests of the Russian Federation."
To take effect, the 1997 protocol -- designed to curb the emissions scientists blame for global warming -- must be ratified by no fewer than 55 countries accounting for at least 55 per cent of global emissions in 1990. After the United States rejected the treaty outright, the threshold can only be reached by Russia casting the deciding, ratifying vote. Following the Russian president's comments, Anderson told reporters he remains optimistic Russia still supports the treaty. "There's absolutely nothing in today's statement to suggest they're falling back or away from that commitment. I don't see any real problem here." Canada has committed to cutting its emissions of greenhouse gases to six per cent below 1990 levels by 2008-2012. But measures announced so far fall well short of what's needed to meet those targets. Under the Kyoto Protocol, countries must reduce their level of greenhouse-gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2012. If a country exceeds the emissions level, it could be forced to cut back industrial production. And that fact may be playing into Putin's new hesitation on the issue.
Although Russia's emissions have fallen by 32 percent since 1990, they have started creeping up again as the country rides an economic revival. Stemming industrial emissions could, therefore, come into conflict with Putin's ambitious plan to double the country's gross domestic product by 2010. The Russian government must submit ratification documents to parliament before the country can formally approve the treaty. Officials had already said that the legislature was not likely to review the issue before parliamentary elections, set for Dec. 7.
A leading UN official on climate change said Monday she was "encouraged" by action on the issue taken in Russia but expressed disappointment that President Vladimir Putin had failed to give a "precise signal" on ratifying the Kyoto treaty on greenhouse gases. "I'm encouraged by the action taken on climate change in Russia and on action under way on the Kyoto protocol," Joke Waller-Hunter, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), told reporters on the sidelines of a five-day international conference taking place in the Russian capital. "However I'd hoped for a more precise signal on when Russia would be ready to ratify the Kyoto Protocol because our process on climate change is really waiting for that," she said.
Opening the World Conference on Climate Change, Putin set back hopes that Russia would rapidly ratify the protocol, thereby bringing it into force, with a declaration that Moscow had not yet reached a decision and was "meticulously" examining the pros and cons. His remarks were seen as a step back, with an apparent pledge made at a world summit in Johannesburg last year in which he had appeared to indicate that Russia would sign up to the protocol, bringing it past the threshold number of signatories needed to bring about its implementation. Waller-Hunter stressed that climate change is "a global problem which needs global, multilateral action, which is why Russia's ratification is so important."
It is "important for the business community" that the Kyoto protocol on reducing emissions of greenhouse gases held responsible for global warming enters into force "because they have to take positions on investment," she noted. "They have shown that they are ready to do so in many countries, and ready to start implementing (the protocol's) development mechanisms. Thats why it's so important that the international community takes a consolidate stand on this." Noting that the UNFCCC's ruling body was due to meet in Milan, Italy in two months' time, she added: "We must trust that Russian action is such that when (we) meet in December, the time of study will be over and the time of action will be here."
PARIS, Sept 29 (Reuters) - French President Jacques Chirac on Monday joined calls for Russia to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, saying future relations between the European Union and the Russian Federation depended on it. Chirac made the plea in a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who backed away on Monday from an earlier pledge to swiftly ratify the U.N. pact on global warming, a step necessary to bring the agreement into force worldwide. Ratifying the pact "would underline Russia's determination to accept all the responsibilities of a large modern country towards future generations," Chirac said.
It would give the partnership between the Russian Federation and the EU "greater legitimacy" in the fields of energy and environmental protection, he added. "I therefore see in it an essential element to the constitution of the common economic area we decided to create in St Petersburg," Chirac said, referring to plans for a common European economic space. Delegates at a World Climate Change Conference in Moscow said it was too early to talk of the possible death of the 1997 Kyoto protocol despite Russia's long indecision.
The protocol seeks to rein in emissions of gases like carbon dioxide from fossil fuels burnt in factories and cars that are blamed for blanketing the planet and driving up temperatures, raising sea levels and causing natural disasters.
MOSCOW Sept. 29 — President Vladimir Putin on Monday cast doubt over the fate of the Kyoto Protocol, which needs Russian ratification to take effect, saying that his country is still undecided and pointing at theories that claim Russia could even benefit from global warming. Speaking on the first day of the U.N. World Climate Change Conference in the Russian capital, Putin offered no indication as to when his government might make up its mind about the landmark pact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To go into effect, the 1997 protocol must be ratified by no fewer than 55 countries, accounting for at least 55 percent of global emissions in 1990. After the United States rejected the treaty, the minimum can be reached only with Russia's ratification.
"The government is thoroughly considering and studying this issue, studying the entire complex of difficult problems linked with it," Putin said. "The decision will be made after this work has been completed, and of course it will take into account the national interests of the Russian Federation." Pressed by some of the conference's delegates for a commitment to ratification, Putin responded ambiguously, citing domestic critics of the Kyoto pact who theorized that Russia could even profit from global warming. He added, however, that Russia may see some adverse effects too. "They often say, half-jokingly and half-seriously, that Russia is a northern country and if temperatures get warmer by two or three degrees Celsius, it's not that bad we could spend less on warm coats and agricultural experts say that grain harvests would increase further," Putin said with a grin. "That may be so, but we must also think about the consequences of global climate change. "We must think what consequences of these changes we will face in certain regions where there will be droughts and where there will be floods," he added. Russian officials must consider "what consequences there will be for people living in these regions; social, economic and environmental consequences."
The Kyoto Protocol calls for countries to reduce their level of greenhouse-gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2012. If a country exceeds the emissions level, it could be forced to cut back industrial production. Russia's emissions have fallen by 32 percent since 1990 largely due to the post-Soviet industrial meltdown, but slowly emissions have started to rise again amid the economic revival of the past few years. Putin's ambitious goal of doubling Russia's gross domestic product by 2010 might come into conflict with the Kyoto Protocol, requiring Russia to launch a costly overhaul of its industries in order to cut emissions and thereby slowing down economic growth. Putin said Monday that the interests of all countries must be taken into account in setting pollution limits, which he said should not strangle economic development.
Putin's comments marked a backward move from Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov's pledge a year ago that Russia would ratify the Kyoto Protocol in the "very near future." But it was not entirely unexpected. The government must submit ratification documents to parliament, and officials had already said that the legislature was not likely to review the issue before the Dec. 7 parliamentary elections. U.N. and European backers of the Kyoto Protocol had hoped Russia would commit to ratification while hosting the Moscow conference, and some openly voiced their disappointment. Klaus Toepfer, the executive director of the U.N. Environmental Program, warned that while some nations could reap some temporary benefits from global warming, "at the end of the day we will only have losers."
One of the World Bank's chief scientists has renewed calls for Australia to sign up to the Kyoto protocol and set tough new greenhouse gas reduction targets. Bob Watson from the World Bank says there will be major ramifications for the world's poorer nations if industrialised countries refuse to address the issue of global warming. "The first challenge is to ratify the Kyoto protocol and start to limit the emissions of greenhouse gases, but for that we need all developed countries to get on board," he said. "We need Australia on board, we need the United States, but sooner rather than later." A Canberra conference on climate change and health heard global warming will cause massive outbreaks of disease, including malaria and cholera, particularly in developing nations. Meanwhile, at a major international conference on climate change in Moscow, Russia has come under renewed pressure to sign the Kyoto protocol The Kyoto Protocol of 1997 can only come into force when 55 per cent of countries, representing 55 per cent of global emissions, have signed up to it. With the US refusing to sign, ratification by Russia is crucial to the treaty's success.
Environmental protection groups Sunday slammed Russia for resorting to "delaying manoeuvres" and linking its ratification of the Kyoto treaty on reducing emissions of dangerous greenhouse gases to its entry into the World Trade Organisation. The World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) said in a statement by the organisation's US director Jennifer Morgan that "President [Vladimir] Putin has to decide if he wants to be climate killer number 2 after [US President] George [W.] Bush or if he wants to be on the side" of the rest of the world. The United States withdrew from the 1997 Kyoto treaty in March 2001, having initially signed it. The treaty now requires Russia's ratification to pass the threshold that will enable it to become effective.
The WWF statement, to be released late Sunday but handed to AFP by its Russian section, also criticised Russia's "attempt to link ratification to Russia's accession to the World Trade Organisation" (WTO). It called for a ratification bill to be sent to the Russian parliament as soon as possible, with a decision to be made before the end of the present parliamentary session on November 20 which is to be followed by legislative elections on December 7. So far "118 countries have ratified [the Kyoto accord] and are just waiting for Russia to complete ratification," Morgan said ahead of the five-day World Conference on Climate Change that Putin is due to open on Monday in Moscow. "The so-called World Conference on Climate Change has been down-scaled to a purely scientifc meeting ... It is of no importance for the Russian ratification process and it is unlikely to give any new scientific insights," Morgan said.
Ukraine last week became the 118th nation to ratify the Kyoto protocol. Last week the WWF, along with the Greenpeace environmental protection group, wrote to the leaders of six Group of Eight leaders asking them to put pressure on Putin over the Kyoto treaty. A Western diplomat confirmed to AFP that the letter had been received. The WWF and Friends of the Earth organisation have refused to attend the Moscow conference, while Greenpeace is to send just two delegates instead of the several dozen it usually sends to climate conferences.
Russia will only ratify the Kyoto treaty on reducing dangerous greenhouse gases if it receives guarantees on investment and on the sale of emission rights, a source close to the presidential administration said Friday. Russia "is in no hurry to proceed with this ratification," the source said on condition of anonymity. "We first want a legislative and financial mechanism for the sale of quotas to be drawn up, and we want our Western partners to offer us specific joint projects as well as gurantees on the purchase of Russian emission quotas for a precise sum," the source told reporters. "We need to modernise our industry and our communal services, and we are waiting for specific proposals from Western financial circles," he said.
Ratification by Russia of the Kyoto treaty, a landmark 1997 pact to significantly cut back "greenhouse gases," is needed for it to come into force after the United States abandoned the agreement. Russia is a major beneficiary of the Kyoto treaty as the closure of many of its outmoded Soviet-era factories has left it with great deal of scope for selling emission quotas, its pollution levels having fallen substantially since the benchmark year of 1990. The European countries, Japan and Canada are among those considered potential partners and buyers of quotas, the official said. "In June, President Vladimir Putin asked several European countries to draw up a financial and commercial mechanism" that would be implemented after ratification of the protocol, but has not as yet received a response, he said.
If Europe is waiting for Russia to ratify the document without proposing concrete projects, it will wait a long time," the official said, stressing that Russia needed to be "sure there will be no unpleasant surprises" after the ratification. "We are concerned that they may seek to impose rules that are disadvantageous to us," he said. "Right now the Kyoto protocol issue has become commericial and financial rather than ecological... We have fulfilled all our environmental obligations. Since 1990 we have reduced emissions to the atmosphere by one third." The official noted that even if Russia's gross national product were to double over the next 10 years, a goal set by Putin earlier this year, "our emissions would still exceed those of 1990."
He also linked Russian ratification with membership of the World Trade Organisation, noting that the quotas could in future be decided by the WTO. The subject of climate change, believed to be caused by carbon dioxide and other gases that create a greenhouse effect, is due to be discussed at a five-day international conference attended by experts from 43 nations here next week
MOSCOW - The European Commission is ready to allocate EUR 2m to Russia within the framework of the TACIS program, Vincent Piket, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Commission in Russia, said at a press conference on Thursday. He said the money should be used for the support of the Kyoto Protocol program. According to the members of the EC Delegation, countries that ratified this agreement should cut greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere starting on January 1, 2005, or they should buy gas emission quotas from the countries with greenhouse gas emissions below the allowed levels.
According to Jorge Moreira da Silva, Co-Chairman of the EC Delegation and permanent European Parliament Rapporteur on Climate Change, the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol will lead to large investments from EU companies, who will have to cut their gas emissions starting on January 1, 2005, and will seek new investment targets. The members of the EC Delegation also said that the Energy Ministry of Russia proposed setting up a coordination center for work on the Kyoto Protocol. The center would include the representatives of several ministries (the Finance Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, and Economy Ministry). They will hold joint consultations and monitor the situation with gas emissions in Russia. In the opinion of Jorge Moreira da Silva, the creation of such a monitoring system in Russia in the near term is unlikely, because the European Commission itself is in the process of establishing this system.
The Kyoto Protocol, signed in 1997 within the framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, is aimed at curbing global warming, which most experts say might have catastrophic consequences for the planet. Global warming is caused by industrial gas emissions into the atmosphere. They create a so-called greenhouse effect that raises the temperature of the Earth. The Kyoto Protocol demands that industrially developed countries should reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 8 percent. However, the Kyoto Protocol will only come into effect after it has been ratified by at least 50 percent of the signatory countries. Moreover, these countries should be responsible for at least 50 percent of industrial gas emissions in 1990. However, after the United States, the source of more than 36 percent of such emissions, withdrew from the Protocol due to economic reasons, the implementation of the second condition became problematic. If Russia, which accounts for 17 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, pulled out of the Protocol, it would have no chance for implementation.
5 reasons against
Russia’s Kyoto protocol says Russian expert, Gateway2 Russia, October 1,
France urges Russia to
ratify Kyoto protocol, Gateway2 Russia, September 30, 2003,
Putin leaves Kyoto deal
in doubt, CNN, September 29, 2003,
Russia Needs Cash
Guarantee to Approve Kyoto, Planet Ark, September 29, 2003,
Kyoto treaty in the
balance, BBC, September 29, 2003,
Putin says ratifying
Kyoto Protocol must meet Russia's interests, Xinhuanet, September 29, 2003,
EU presses Russia to
ratify Kyoto protocol, EU Business, September 29, 2003,
Putin Casts Doubt on
Kyoto Protocol, Guardian, September 29, 2003,
Ministry says Russia unlikely to ratify Kyoto Protocol in 2003, Russia Journal, September 9, 2003 http://www.russiajournal.com/news/cnews-article.shtml?nd=40358
MOSCOW (Reuters) -- About 160,000 people die every year from side-effects of global warming ranging from malaria to malnutrition and the numbers could almost double by 2020, a group of scientists said. The study, by scientists at the World Health Organization (WHO) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said children in developing nations seemed most vulnerable. "We estimate that climate change may already be causing in the region of 160,000 deaths...a year," Professor Andrew Haines of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told a climate change conference in Moscow on Tuesday. "The disease burden caused by climate change could almost double by 2020," he added, even taking account of factors like improvements in health care. He said the estimates had not been previously published.
Most deaths would be in developing nations in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia, which would be hardest hit by the spread of malnutrition, diarrhea and malaria in the wake of warmer temperatures, floods and droughts. "These diseases mainly affect younger age groups, so that the total burden of disease due to climate change appears to be borne mainly by children in developing countries," Haines said. Milder winters, however, might mean that people would live longer on average in Europe or North America despite risks from heatwaves this summer in which about 15,000 people died in France alone. Haines said the study suggested climate change could "bring some health benefits, such as lower cold-related mortality and greater crop yields in temperate zones, but (that) these will be greatly outweighed by increased rates of other diseases." Russia is hosting a World Climate Change Conference this week to discuss how to rein in emissions of gases like carbon dioxide from factories and cars that scientists blame for blanketing the planet and nudging up temperatures.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who opened the conference Monday, suggested in jest that global warming could benefit countries like Russia as people "would spend less money on fur coats and other warm things." But Putin also backed away from Russia's earlier pledge to swiftly ratify the key Kyoto pact on curbing global warming, a plan that will collapse without Moscow's backing. He told 940 delegates to the conference Russia was closely studying the issue of Kyoto. "A decision will be taken when this work is finished," he said, giving no timetable. Haines said small shifts in temperatures, for instance, could extend the range of mosquitoes that spread malaria. Water supplies could be contaminated by floods, for instance, which could also wash away crops.
29 September – If the ever-increasing emission of greenhouse remains unchecked, the planet as we know it today could look very different by the end of this century, with many small islands gone and ecological life-support systems under stress as never before, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned today. “Scientist and others have been sounding the alarm about climate change for many years now,” Mr. Annan said in a message delivered by the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Klaus Toepfer, to the World Conference on Climate Change, which kicked-off today in Moscow.
The Russian Federation convened the Conference with support from international organizations involved in climate change problems. Delegates will hold comprehensive discussions on the scientific aspects of natural and anthropogenic climate change, as well as adapting human society, economies and ecosystems to such changes. The Conference aims to foster maximum mutual understanding on these issues between various stakeholders. “By the end of this century, as a result of ever-increasing emissions of greenhouse gases, our planet may look very different: with many small islands gone, the Arctic Ocean free of ice for many months of the year, agricultural regions dramatically altered, and our ecological life-support systems under stress as never before,” Mr. Annan said in the message. Fortunately, civil society groups are doing their part to advocate for change, enlightened corporate leaders are seizing the opportunity to use and develop greener technologies and many governments are listening to the scientific forecasts, he said, noting that the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change enjoys nearly universal membership. “Almost 120 nations have ratified the Kyoto Protocol, an essential first step in tackling this planetary challenge,” Mr. Annan said. “I join people throughout the world in eagerly awaiting ratification by the Russian Federation, which will bring the Protocol into force and further galvanize global action.”
Snow melting in the Arctic as a result of global warming can pose a threat to the population of Canada's northern provinces, said Canadian Environment Minister David Anderson at the World Conference on Climate Change held in Moscow on Monday. "Climate changes already pose a serious threat in the Arctic, and this bears directly on Canada," he pointed out. In this connection the Canadian minister did not rule out a possibility of resettling the population of the country's northern districts. Canadian experts cooperate closely with Russian scientists, receiving information on climate change from them, Anderson recalled. "Scientific reports sound frightening, but to sit twiddling one's thumbs is a risky policy," he emphasized.
According to Norwegian Environment Minister Borge Brende, in the recent decades global warming has become evident. "Scientist forecast that during the forthcoming century, the average air temperature on the Earth may increase by 5.4 degrees, while over the last 10,000 years the temperature growth has not exceeded 8 degrees," Brende pointed out. The minister urged all countries to ratify the Kyoto protocol as soon as possible, as it will become "a good tool to solve problems related to climate change on the Earth".
ABC Radio Australia News
Pacific island nations are feeling the brunt of climate change in the shape of Increasingly frequent and intense storms the United Nations has been told. President of the Federated States of Micronesia Joseph J Urusemal has told the 58th session of the UN General Assembly the world cannot afford to lose the war against climate change. He says the frequency and intensity of storms in the Pacific has increased tremendously over the years, with typhoons killing whole families and sweeping away community cemeteries. He says everything that people in the Federated States of Micronesia have and hope to achieve is under grave threat because of global climate change.
One of the world's leading climate change scientists has accused Australia of not doing enough to protect poorer countries from the changing environment. World Bank chief scientist Bob Watson says Australia must sign up to the Kyoto Treaty on reducing greenhouse emissions. Mr Watson says without leadership from the world's industrialised nations, poor countries will suffer severe health consequences from global warming. "While it's the industrialised countries that have largely emitted the greenhouse gases, that are going to cause a changing climate, it's the poor countries that are most vulnerable to climate change," he said.
A United Nations development agency is joining a Swiss global insurer and a United States medical school in an innovative research partnership to evaluate health and economic damages from climate change and associated events, which currently run at $40 billion annually and are projected to reach $150 billion by 2010. The two-year project by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Swiss Re and Harvard Medical School's Center for Health and the Global Environment was launched at UN Headquarters in New York with a two-day conference earlier this week bringing together leading scientists and health researchers from across the world to project the future health impact of climate change and biodiversity loss, especially in poor countries.
Drawing on funding and expertise from all three partners, it will focus on four key areas linked to climate change: heat waves and air pollution, as exemplified by the recent lethal heat wave in France, Portugal and Spain with numerous deaths, widespread wildfires and crop failures; changing patterns of infectious diseases, such as conditions underlying the recent spread of West Nile Virus; volatile, extreme weather, posing hazards for life and livelihoods, travel, trade, tourism, and infrastructure; and the impact on biodiversity because of degraded ecosystems.
"While climate change and biodiversity loss are global problems, their debilitating effect on human livelihoods and well-being is most severely felt by the poor in developing countries, threatening decades of development efforts," UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown said. "By providing critical information that will help countries better cope with climate variability and protect their ecosystems, this initiative can play an important role in helping the world meet the Millennium Development Goals," he added, referring to the targets set by the UN Millennium Summit of 2000, ranging from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS to providing universal primary education, all by 2015. UNDP's poverty reduction efforts include assessing the impact of global environmental change and assisting developing countries in mitigating these potentially devastating impacts. An estimated 96 percent of disaster-related deaths occur in the developing world, yet 90 percent of developing countries lack disaster-related insurance coverage.
UNDP's goal is for this study to expand the potential of the insurance and broader financial services industries to operate in the developing world.
Melting glaciers are spectacular indicators of climate change, but when it comes to biodiversity in the Alps, scientists are more concerned about the fate of fragile mosses and flowers. The effect of global warming on alpine vegetation was one of the main topics discussed at a recent climate conference in Grindelwald.
"When you talk about biodiversity, you have to take into account special [alpine] habitats which might disappear quite quickly." Scientist Georg Grabherr from the University of Vienna, one of the key speakers at the conference, confirmed that if global warming continued, Europe could see vegetation shifting north- and eastwards.
The conditions would be right, he said, for flora indigenous to countries bordering the Mediterranean to thrive in central Europe. “There’s a probability that the trees and plants that are growing there could move or grow in our area,” Grabherr told swissinfo. According to models of forest recovery after the last ice age, Grabherr said that dominant tree species moved northwards at an average rate of 200 metres a year. Studies that he has conducted on alpine vegetation show that a shift is already occurring. Grabherr says plants are also moving upwards in altitude, forced to flee by invading species, and ending up “pushed to the wall” on mountaintops. “But the big question is, will southern plants manage to migrate north,” he added.
Human population explosion coupled with urban development could prove to be an insurmountable barrier preventing a new northern migration. “You reduce the capacity of plants to propagate if the habitat is already occupied or not available, as the situation is today where most habitats have been altered by human intervention,” explained Vera Markgraf of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Even without competition from foreign plants, alpine vegetation is threatened by a dramatic rise in temperatures and a lack of rain, as Europe experienced this summer. “When we talk about biodiversity, we have to consider special habitats which can disappear quite quickly,” Grabherr said, referring to mosses and grasses that cling to chalky rock faces on the mountainsides above Grindelwald. “This summer’s drought killed a lot of the grasses on the rocks where there is normally a lot of water,” he said. The purple mountain saxifrage could die from “overheating” he said, adding that it would be a “curious” event in the “cold climate of the Alps”.
PRESERVATION AND PROTECTION
Markgraf said efforts to preserve or protect endangered alpine habits could prove futile. “I don’t think we can tell conservationists where they should protect areas or plant trees because we can’t predict what will happen in climate terms and where habitats might be,” she said. But according to Martin Beniston, the director of the geography unit at the University of Fribourg, progress is being made in predicting the effects of climate change. “We’re moving ahead with further understanding of very complex interactions between climate, climatic change and the alpine environment,” he told swissinfo. “Because the alpine region is so heavily populated there will be impacts on economic activities, so any further understanding of the way the environment will change in coming decades will help us, perhaps, to adapt to these changes,” he said. “I think the summer we have just lived through is a little bit of the shape of things to come.”
World Wildlife Fund US
WASHINGTON -World Wildlife Fund (WWF) today warned that reductions in heat-trapping gas emissions from burning fossil fuels are urgently needed to protect treasured national and state parks from global warming. The warning comes as WWF releases a new report on the latest scientific research on warming and parks at a 10-year global forum of park managers, scientists and policymakers now underway in South Africa. "If we want our children to enjoy our national parks and wildlife areas the way we do, policymakers must pass measures to reduce heat-trapping gas emissions," said Katherine Silverthorne, director of WWF's U.S. Climate Change Program. "The parks and wildplaces Americans know and love will be seriously degraded or could disappear altogether, unless we combat global warming now to prevent further damage."
The WWF study shows that climate change impacts are already being observed in many parks worldwide, including in the United States. It finds that climate change is the most consistent explanation for many alterations in the range or behavior of animals and plants. Recent research suggests that many of the types of damaging environmental changes predicted in climatic models are already taking place. Sea level rise is already affecting coastal ecosystems, including precious salt-marshes.
One third of the marshland in Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on Maryland's Eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay has disappeared since 1938. Half of that loss is thought to be due to extraction from aquifers, with the rest caused by sea-level rises. Researchers expect the remaining marsh to be flooded within 25 years, eliminating winter habitat for many waterfowl species.In Waccasassa Bay State Park Preserve along Florida's gulf coast, researchers concluded that cabbage palms and other trees are falling victim to saltwater exposure tied to global sea level rise. The problem is exacerbated by drought and a reduction of freshwater flow. In all, seven thousand miles of protected U.S. shoreline, including 80 coastal parks such as Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland, are considered at risk from sea-level rise. "People can see the damage happening just miles from where the Congress is debating whether or not to do something about greenhouse gas emissions," said Silverthorne. "The Congress needs to open its eyes and take action to keep these treasures around."
While some ecosystems may not disappear altogether, many will suffer irreversible damage. Beautiful coral reefs are under threat due to coral bleaching caused by higher sea temperatures linked to global warming. Bleaching events kill corals and, ultimately, can lead to the death of the whole reef. Reefs in marine sanctuaries are no exception. A 2003 WWF report found coral bleaching at all seven of its research sites in the U.S. territory of American Samoa, including within the National Park of American Samoa, Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and Maloata Bay Community Preserve.
"We've taken steps to protect these places from other threats for good reasons. We cannot let them be lost to global warming," added Silverthorne. "With scientific evidence mounting on the devastating environmental damage already underway in the nation's backyard, it's irresponsible for our leaders to oppose the implementation of existing solutions to the global warming problem. Stewardship of the public's most treasured natural areas demands expansion of national conservation efforts to include policies that reduce the impacts of global warming, increase energy efficiency and the use of clean, renewable energy."
Climate change is caused by heat-trapping gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels-coal, oil and gas-for energy. Atmospheric levels of the main heat-trapping gas, carbon dioxide (CO2), are now higher than at any time in the past 420,000 years. Responsible for 37 percent of worldwide CO2 emissions, electricity producers are the biggest single source of CO2 pollution. WWF has challenged key global actors in the electricity producing sector-electric utilities, politicians and banks- to switch from coal to clean energy sources such as wind, solar, and biomass. The need for long-term protection of national parks and other valuable protected areas is the subject of the Fifth World Parks' Congress in Durban, South Africa from September 8 to 15.World Wildlife Fund, known worldwide by its panda logo, leads international efforts to protect endangered species and their habitats and to conserve the diversity of life on Earth. Now in its fourth decade, WWF works in more than 100 countries around the globe.
Sydney Morning Herald
The economy and health of Australians were at risk if urgent action was not taken to address threats posed by climate change, opposition parties warned. In an unusual step, Labor, the Australian Democrats and Greens have issued a joint statement urging the government to tackle the issue. Representatives from the three parties are meeting Robert Watson, former chair of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in Canberra. Labor's environmental spokesman Kelvin Thomson said Australia should immediately ratify the Kyoto protocol. "Australia needs to once again become a responsible international environmental citizen and restore our battered reputation," Mr Thomson said. "We should start by ratifying the Kyoto protocol and urging the United States and Russia to do likewise." Democrats energy spokeswoman Lyn Allison said the government had failed to grasp the magnitude of the threat posed by climate change. Greens Senator Bob Brown said the drought and recent bushfires had been made worse by global warming.
LONDON, England -- Global warming will never bring a "doomsday scenario" a team of scientists says -- because oil and gas are running out much faster than thought. The world's oil reserves are up to 80 percent less than predicted, a team from Sweden's University of Uppsala says. Production levels will peak in about 10 years' time, they say. "Non-fossil fuels must come in much stronger than it had been hoped," Professor Kjell Alekett told CNN. Oil production levels will hit their maximum soon after 2010 with gas supplies peaking not long afterwards, the Swedish geologists say. At that point prices for petrol and other fuels will reach disastrous levels. Earlier studies have predicted oil supplies will not start falling until 2050.
Alekett said that his team had examined data on oil and gas reserves from all over the world and we were "facing a very critical situation globally." "The thing we are surprised of is that people in general are not aware of the decline in supplies and the extent to which it will affect production. "The decline of oil and gas will affect the world population more than climate change." According to the Uppsala team, nightmare predictions of melting ice caps and searing temperatures will never come to pass because the reserves of oil and gas just are not big enough to create that much carbon dioxide (CO2). Alekett said that as well as there being inflated estimates, some countries in the Middle East had exaggerated the amount of reserves they had.
Coal-burning could easily make up the shortfall. But burning coal would be even worse for the planet, as it would create even more CO2, he said. Predictions of global meltdown by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sparked the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, an agreement obliging signatory nations to cut CO2 emissions. The IPCC examined a range of future scenarios, from profligate burning of fossil-fuels to a fast transition towards greener energy sources. The Uppsala team say the amount of oil and gas left is the equivalent of around 3,500 billion barrels of oil -- the IPCC say between 5,000 and 18,000 billion barrels. Alekett said his team had now established what they called the "Uppsala Protocol" to initiate discussion on how the problems of declining reserves could be tackled -- protecting the world economy but also addressing the problem of climate change.
The conclusions of the Uppsala team were revealed in the magazine New Scientist Thursday, and Nebojsa Nakicenovic, of the University of Vienna who headed the IPCC team said it was standing by its figures. He said they had factored in a much broader and internationally accepted range of oil and gas estimates then the "conservative" Swedes. A conference in Russia this week heard a warning that global warming kills about 160,000 people through its effects every year. The numbers dying from "side-effects" of climate change, such as malaria and malnutrition, could almost double by 2020, the climate change conference in Moscow was told. "We estimate that climate change may already be causing in the region of 160,000 deaths... a year," Andrew Haines of the UK's London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said. (Full story)
Most deaths would be in developing nations in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia, says Haines. These regions would be worst hit by the spread of malnutrition, diarrhea and malaria as a result of warmer temperatures, droughts and floods.
ROSEAU — Delegates from a dozen island countries around the world Tuesday began a four-day conference Tuesday in Dominica on developing environmental standards and programs to protect their environments. Officials and scientists from Australia to the Bahamas were assessing their countries' progress in becoming environmentally self-sustaining. Dominica has tried to "observe sustainable development principles, but arising from the structure of the economy and economic vulnerability, our efforts have not always been successful," Prime Minister Pierre Charles said Monday night. Because of its small size, he said, this tiny Caribbean country of 70,000 has been unable to fund or find investment for environmental projects such as waste disposal or recycling.
This weeks' meeting follows the first U.N.-sponsored conference of Small Islands Developing States in 1994 in Barbados. Findings from this week's talks are to be presented at the group's 2004 meeting in Mauritius. During the 1994 meeting, participants agreed on a program for sustainable development focusing on 14 areas including climate change, coastal and marine management and protection of bio-diversity. Participating countries also have formed the Alliance of Small Island States to better lobby large world bodies like the World Trade Organization. The countries involved included Australia, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Malta, Mauritius and in the Caribbean region Barbados, Grenada, St. Lucia, the Bahamas, Dominica and Trinidad and Tobago.
New York Times
WASHINGTON, Oct. 1 — The two senators who are sponsoring legislation to fight global warming announced on Wednesday that they would soften the bill to gain support for a vote expected this month. "By modifying the bill, we expect to build additional momentum for the measure in the Senate," Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said at a Senate hearing on climate change. Mr. McCain and Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, have proposed limits for greenhouse gases from the industrial, utility, commercial and transportation sections of the economy, which together produce nearly 80 percent of American global warming emissions. Households, agriculture and smaller businesses would be exempt.
The modified bill would, as the original did, try to bring carbon dioxide emissions down to the levels of the year 2000, starting in 2010, but it drops a follow-up phase calling for 1990 levels starting in 2016. To ease the impact of these constraints, the bill sets up a framework for companies to buy and sell the rights to emit carbon dioxide, similar to the highly successful 1990 acid rain program. Opponents of carbon dioxide regulation call their legislation the equivalent of an "energy tax" since the gas is a product of the use of coal and oil. A study of the new proposal by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimates that the costs to be passed on to consumers would be $10 to $20 per family per year; the original plan, with its lengthy timetable, could have cost $30 per family annually in the early years, growing to as much as $400 per family by 2020.
The original plan and the revised version are far less aggressive than the limits in the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty rejected by President Bush, which would require industrialized countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions to below 1990 levels by 2012. This would be the first Senate vote on a global-warming issue since 1997 when it adopted a resolution, 95 to 0, that said the United States should not sign any international agreement on climate change that would seriously harm the American economy. Mr. Lieberman and Mr. McCain have tried to bring their proposal to the floor for two years but have been stymied, by the opposition of the White House, which prefers voluntary controls, and by Senator James M. Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who is chairman of the Senate environment committee.
The hearing on Wednesday and the coming Senate vote are the byproduct of the July negotiations over the energy bill, to which the senators tried to attach their proposal as an amendment. Instead, Senator McCain gained an agreement with Senate leaders for a vote on their proposal as a stand-alone bill this fall, with six hours of debate and no unexpected amendments. Environmental groups have unified to lobby for the bill, which has some bipartisan support, including that of a few northeastern Republican senators. But the bill is unlikely to win enough support to pass. Still, environmental groups say the vote remains a milestone for fighting global warming because the simplified measures essentially make this a yes or no vote on whether carbon dioxide regulation is needed. "It's not about the specifics or mechanics of the program," said Jeremy Symons, the climate change director for the National Wildlife Federation. "It's about whether or not you think something should be done or if you think it should be researched indefinitely."
UNITED NATIONS (AP) - Small nations got their chance to weigh in on big issues ranging from global warming to Iraq as well as national concerns at a United Nations General Assembly session. Aside from a couple of big players, Tuesday's General Assembly meeting was dominated by the little guys, who got their time at the podium just like President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin did a few days ago. The United Nations, which was founded in 1945 with just 51 members, has expanded to include 191 nations. But most of the power is wielded by the 15-nation Security Council, composed of five permanent and 10 elected members who have the primary responsibility of preserving peace and the power to enforce measures.
One of the purposes of the General Assembly's annual gathering is to give Palau, population 18,000, the same 15 minutes to air its concerns as China, population 1.2 billion. While other countries may talk about the need to fight global warming and ratify the Kyoto protocol, hearing those concerns from places like Sao Tome and Principe - population 175,000 off the coast of West Africa - is particularly poignant when a diplomat warns the country could cease to exist in a few years if something isn't done. The United States has rejected the 1997 pact to limit greenhouse gas emissions and Russia has cast doubts on its plans to ratify the protocol. To go into effect, the pact must be ratified by no fewer than 55 countries, accounting for at least 55 percent of global emissions in 1990.
``Is my small country to end up nothing but a tiny volcanic peak sticking up above the waves with the last of our people clinging to the land left unclaimed by the rising sea?'' asked Sao Tome Foreign Affairs Minister Mateus Meira Rita. ``The Kyoto Protocol must be implemented by all for the benefit of all.'' Others touched on national issues. Namibia lamented the failure to implement the U.N. Settlement Plan for Western Sahara. Malawi thanked South Africa and the United Nations for helping it alleviate food shortages over the last two years. The Marshall Islands called attention to the radiation levels that remain high on the small island nation after American nuclear testing in 1946-1958.
Some leaders gave heartfelt appeals for unity. The wealthy nation of Brunei, with a population of 358,000, grappled with ways of healing divisions within the world body after the bitter dispute over the U.S.-led war in Iraq and its subsequent occupation. ``It forces us to examine what the United Nations can actually do most effectively and what it can realistically achieve. The reply from too many of our people today, Mr. President, would be, we fear, not much,'' said Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Brunei's foreign affairs minister. ``This presents a powerful case for reform.'' Belize's foreign minister, Godfrey Smith, criticized the U.S. decision to go to war without U.N. approval. ``Such action must, of course, be agreed collective action, not unilateral action. I ask you: is there any part of that we don't understand?'' Smith said. ``It seems perfectly simple and clear to us small states, who depend on the U.N. Charter and on respect for international principles and international law for our very existence.''
A new era in the accuracy of climate prediction has come closer with the presentation of the first results from the largest supercomputer in the world. The Earth Simulator, housed in Japan, has produced what scientists are calling "very exciting" information. It is being presented at a three-day climate workshop in Cambridge, UK. The computer's results hold out the prospect of better predictions of the likelihood of increasing hurricanes, prolonged heavy rain, and heatwaves. The Earth Simulator, which began work in March 2002, is the world's biggest and fastest supercomputer, and has the job of solving some of the thorniest problems facing the Earth in the decades ahead. It is ten times more powerful than anything available at the moment to scientists in the UK. The simulator consists of 640 nodes (the equivalent of individual computers) linked together by 83,000 high-speed cables: the building which houses it has a floor space the size of four tennis courts.
NEW LEVELS OF ACCURACY
One of the organisations behind the Cambridge workshop is the UK's National Institute for Environmental eScience (NIEeS), hosted by the university's Centre for Mathematical Sciences. The other is the Natural Environment Research Council's Centres for Atmospheric Science (NCAS). Professor Julia Slingo, director of the NCAS Centre for Global Atmospheric Modelling, said: "These results are very exciting." They show that, for the first time, our climate models can be run at resolutions capable of capturing severe weather events such as intense depressions, hurricanes and major rainstorms. "This means that we potentially have the capability to predict whether storms like Hurricane Isabel will be on the increase in future.
"Importantly for the UK, we will be able to predict with more confidence increases in damaging storms and extremes of temperature, and what their regional impacts will be.
"They will help us to prioritise our investment in devising strategies to adapt to climate change, for example the specification of railway lines to deal with the extreme heat experienced this summer, or storm drains to cope with extreme rainfall such as we experienced in the autumn of 2000." The workshop is being held to push forward the development of a programme of Earth system modelling. This will include all aspects of modelling the atmosphere, oceans and ice caps through to the way they affect forests and marine life and are affected by them. The programme deals with timescales from single seasons to several millennia, and tackles problems including global warming and the transition into and out of ice ages. It also covers abrupt climate change such as a shutdown of the thermohaline circulation, the exchange of warm and cold water in the world's oceans which does so much to drive global weather systems.
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
The workshop organisers say e-science technologies (using the internet for scientific research and exchanging information) are central to its success, because much of the work being presented involves analysing huge datasets derived from computer models using platforms like the Earth Simulator. One, Dr Emily Shuckburgh, said: "This workshop will be the first of its kind bringing together experts from the field to present Earth system modelling and discuss the first results from the Earth Simulator. "It will provide unprecedented insight into the global climate, which will help scientists in all environmental fields."
Countries such as Britain which are destroying the environment of poorer nations by contributing to global warming and using tropical hardwoods should be prepared to take a fair share of the refugees they have created, says a thinktank report today. The New Economics Foundation says the idea of being responsible for environmental refugees is an extension of the "polluter pays" principle. "People whose environment is being damaged and destroyed, and who are losing their lives and their livelihoods, should be recompensed and protected by those responsible," the report says. It suggests that the Geneva convention should be expanded to include those displaced by environmental degradation.
Whole countries such as Tuvalu in the south Pacific will be drowned and large areas made too barren for crops, but the people displaced have nowhere to go. The freedom to pollute and consume should have a price tag. Among the polluting states this is not likely to be a popular notion because there is widespread denial of the link between consumption patterns and the global environmental crisis. But, far from being a "soft touch" for refugees, the UK is failing to take a fair share of the displaced people it is responsible for. The foundation argues that harm is intentional when policies are pursued in full knowledge of their damaging consequences. "The causes and consequences of climate change - who is responsible and who gets hurt - are now sufficiently understood." To disregard that knowledge must be classed as intentional behaviour, the report says. America's energy plans will increase global warming and result in refugees - something that could be classed as environmental persecution.
The Geneva convention defines a refugee as someone forced to flee because of a well-founded fear of persecution, be it religious, political or "other". "A well-founded fear of starvation or drowning is a compelling reason to escape," the report says. Environmental refugees outnumber those fleeing from war, political or religious persecution and could reach 20 million people a year.
The report targets George Bush's America in particular for being responsible for the largest share of global warming, but includes "Fortress Europe", which is attempting to keep out refugees. Many of these so-called economic migrants, heavily attacked by politicians and press, are people who can no longer make a living in their home country because of environmental changes caused by the policies of the rich countries.
Since the UK is responsible for 3% of the world's global warming through carbon emissions, and global warming is likely to create 20 million environmental refugees a year, this country should in equity offer 300,000 displaced persons a year a home, Andrew Simms, one of the authors of the report said yesterday. The report says it is both a moral and an economic case. Fossil fuels, coal, gas and oil drive the global economy, and allow the wealthier nations to enjoy a lavish lifestyle compared with the developing world. Rich countries spend £50bn a year subsidising fossil fuel industries, but around £300,000 a year helping poor countries manage their emissions and adapt to climate change. "Is it unreasonable to expect the wealthier members of the international community to pay for their profligate enjoyment of the earth's finite fossil fuel supply? "We believe not. Only by creating new legal responsibilities towards environmental refugees will the international community - and especially industrialised countries - accept their obligations." More people are on the move around the world than at any time in history. By 2050, 150 million people may be displaced by the impacts of global warming. Doing nothing to address the problem will create problems for the world community. Millions of refugees moving across borders will be a major cause of global instability, a fertile breeding ground for bitterness and resentment, and a recruiting ground for terrorism, the report says.
ABC Radio Australia News
The United Nations has been reminded that at a time when many wars are spoken of, there also is a war against climate change that the world cannot afford to lose. The president of the Federated States of Micronesia, Joseph J Urusemal has told the 58th session of the UN General Assembly, climate change is a reality for his country. He says the frequency and intensity of storms in the Pacific has increased tremendously over the years, with typhoons killing whole families and sweeping away community cemeteries. He says everything that people in the Federated States of Micronesia have and hope to achieve is under grave threat because of global climate change.
The Japan Times
The Environment Ministry needs to work on making better presentations to the public if it hopes to create greater awareness of environmental issues, according to newly appointed Environment Minister Yuriko Koike. "Environmental issues are deeply connected to our daily lives," Koike, 51, said. "So if ways can be improved to attract the people's attention, it will be easier (to convince the public to be more aware of environmental problems." Koike said she needs to learn how to generate greater public interest in her ministry's policies. She noted Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara's use of a plastic bottle containing suspended vehicle exhaust particulate drew people's attention to his plan to ban diesel vehicles from the capital's streets.
A House of Representatives member now with the Liberal Democratic Party, Koike is one of three women in Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's new Cabinet. Although an expert on Middle East affairs, she admits that environmental policy is not her strong suit. However, the former television newscaster stressed that her experience working in the international arena as well as her personal involvement in environmental activities such as a tree-planting campaign in the Sahara Desert will help her take the ministry's helm.
Koike said her main focus will be on balancing economic growth with efforts to protect the environment, as mandated by Koizumi. She feels the environment will play a key role in reviving the nation's economy, which is now undergoing structural upheavals. The ministry is preparing a bill that seeks to encourage companies to be more aware of the environment when conducting business. Koike said that when businesses are forced to become environment-friendly, they work to develop greener technologies, such as those for saving energy that emerged during the oil crises of the 1970s.
The ministry also seeks to introduce a carbon tax as early as fiscal 2005 to achieve the country's pledge to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 6 percent from 1990 levels under the Kyoto Protocol on curbing global warming. The envisioned tax would help cut emissions by raising the price of fossil fuels. The ministry's draft of the tax faced stiff opposition from industry when it was unveiled last month; it calls for the tax to be levied on fuel importers and processors instead of retailers and consumers.
Koike said she will work hard to convince both industry and the public of the need for the levy. At the same time, she said she is well aware that simply boosting public awareness is not enough when it comes to promoting renewable energy. "Alternative energy sources such as wind power and photo-voltaics have yet to become mainstream energy sources despite having been promoted for decades," she noted. "If the country really wants to increase (the use of) renewable energy sources, it should do so by creating a tax system and legal framework that favors such energy sources."
The governors of California, Washington and Oregon, accusing the Bush administration of "foot-dragging" in the fight against global warming, announced Monday they plan to develop a joint strategy to reduce pollution. California Gov. Gray Davis and Washington Gov. Gary Locke, joined by environmental activists, unveiled the pact at a state park offering smog-shrouded views of Los Angeles. Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who was unable to attend, endorsed the plan in a statement.
The three Democrats said they would work to check global warming through coordinated actions that include purchasing fuel-efficient vehicles, developing renewable sources of energy and creating standardized methods to account for emissions. Davis said the agreement was necessary because President Bush refused to act more aggressively to cut emissions.
"Unfortunately the Bush administration is still in denial on global warming. They have their head in the Texas sand, they're foot-dragging. They refuse to believe it's a problem," Davis said. "My message today is if Washington, D.C., will not lead, then the West Coast of the United States will lead on global warming."
Locke, who said the three states account for nearly 2 percent of global emissions, warned that climate change could wreak havoc on natural habitat by melting snowpacks and sparking forest fires. "Other countries are paying attention and acting," Locke said. "The current administration is paying only lip service and doing little to address global warming."
Dana Perino, a spokeswoman for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, dismissed such criticism. She cited the administration's proposals to give tax incentives to consumers who use alternative energy and buy hybrid vehicles, along with a plan that calls for the amount of greenhouse gases released as a percentage of economic growth to be reduced by 18 percent by 2012.
"The facts surpass political rhetoric. We have an aggressive and comprehensive global climate change set of initiatives that go further and deeper than his proposals today," Perino said. The three states hope to:
The action was welcomed by environmentalists, who have been critical of the Bush administration's rejection of the Kyoto Protocol to slash emissions and what they view as a willingness to allow companies to take only voluntary measures.
"This plan is the kind of leadership we need. And we're hoping it will produce real results that will demonstrate that it's possible to take steps to begin the long fight to prevent global warming," said David G. Hawkins, director of the National Resources Defense Council Climate Center.
ABC Radio Australia News
Risk management planning has begun, to prepare Pacific islands for changing climate and rising sea levels as a result of global warming.The planning is being done by a team based at New Zealand's Waikato University. Known as the International Global Change Institute, the researchers have formed a partnership with a New Zealand based environmental and engineeering consultancy. The partners have won a contract from the Asian Development Bank to determine how the risks posed by climate change can be reduced.In Cook Islands, advice will be provided on the height of a new harbour breakwater, and how to maintain crops being invaded more frequently with salt water. In the Federated States of Micronesia, the researchers will advise road-builders and a coastal community living at the base of a cliff with nowhere to retreat as sea levels rise.
Sydney Morning Herald
National greenhouse gas emissions decreased in 2001 but Australia will just miss meeting its Kyoto Protocol reduction targets. The Federal Government yesterday released the national greenhouse gas emission accounts, which predict Australia's emissions in 2010 will be 110 per cent of 1990 levels - two percentage points higher than the negotiated level of 108 per cent. The Environment Minister, David Kemp, said although Australia was making "real progress on greenhouse gas emissions" it was still opposed to ratifying the "flawed" Kyoto protocol. "You can't achieve anything except by hard work and by practical measures," Dr Kemp said.
But the Opposition, Democrats, Greens and environment groups all called on the Government to ratify the international climate change treaty. Labor's environment spokesman, Kelvin Thomson, said meeting the targets but not ratifying was "like a runner out on the track, doing the laps, but determined to miss out on the prize by failing to register for the event or even wear the T-shirt".
The National Greenhouse Gas Inventory for 2001 shows Australia produced 542.6 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, a drop of 0.4 per cent on 2000 levels and a 0.1 per cent decrease on 1990 levels. Despite the overall decrease, emissions from the energy and transport sectors increased.
Road transport emissions increased by 24.2 per cent on 1990 levels. The energy sector was the biggest contributor to emissions, accounting for 68 per cent, or 369 million tonnes. This represents an increase of 29 per cent from 1990. This will increase to 56 per cent over 1990 levels by 2010 on current trends.
Environment groups called on the Federal Government to set mandatory reduction targets for the energy sector. The executive director of the Australian Conservation Foundation, Don Henry, said such increases meant "voluntary efforts to reduce greenhouse pollution simply aren't good enough". A Greenpeace campaigner, Frances McGuire, said climate change would not be controlled "until we begin to phase out coal, oil and gas and replace them with clean, renewable energy sources like wind, solar and hydrogen".
Dr Kemp said the energy sector's high emissions were because of Australia's "very successful economy". Late last night the chances of the protocol coming into effect this year looked unlikely after the Russian parliament decided to delay its decision on ratifying.
Least developed countries like Bhutan are expected to be worst affected by climate change because they are “least able to cope with it” mainly in terms of technology and resources. Preparing adaptation programmes in advance might, however, make it easier to deal with climatic changes. This week eight Asian LDCs including Bhutan met with members of the LDC expert group (LEG) and the UN agencies in Thimphu to prepare what is known as the national adaptation programmes of action (NAPA) to deal with the impact of climate change. NAPA, approved by the 2001 conference of the parties to the united nations framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC), will serve as simplified and direct channels of communication relating to the urgent and immediate adaptation needs of the LDCs. “The rationale for developing NAPA is based on the low adaptive capacity of LDCs which renders them in need of immediate and urgent support to start adapting to current and projected adverse effects of climate change,” said the chairperson of the LEG, La’avasa Malua.
La’avasa Malua added that the two critical concerns for the Asian LDCs are the impact of climate change on mountain ecosystems and the coastal environment. “This workshop will provide generic advisory services on the preparation, which is already underway, of NAPA for the eight participating Asian LDCs.” The workshop is expected to increase awareness and increase capacity in applying NAPA guidelines. Though Bhutan has initiated significant efforts to address climate change and other important environmental issues, Bhutan, as a LDC, has its own share of potential dangers lurking around. “We have, in fact, already started to witness in recent years the impact of severe floods, unusual weather patterns and increasing incidences of tropical diseases in our temperate regions,” agriculture minister Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup told the participants at the inaugural session on September 9. “Melting of glaciers has led to the creation of new glacial lakes and expansion of existing ones. Of the 2,674 glacial lakes, 24 have been identified as potentially dangerous.”
An inventory of glacial lakes and hazard mapping along the Pho chhu basin has been done and the first national inventory of greenhouse gases showed that the country sequestered 3,321 kilotonnes of carbon in 1994. Dr Dechen Tshering of the national environment commission secretariat (NECS) said that some of the immediate concerns reflected in Bhutan’s NAPA will be the glacial lakes, early warning system, climate variability and monitoring of the river flow. She added that energy and agriculture are the key sectors likely to be affected by the climate change. The united nations development programme resident representative, Renata Lok Dessalian, said that climate change “will have a disproportionately harsh impact on the LDCs.” The intergovernmental panel on climate change states that “effects of climate change are expected to be greatest in developing countries…in terms of loss of life, effects on investment, and effects on the economy”.
A United Kingdom department for international development report states that within LDCs the poor are likely to be the most vulnerable to climate change shock. “The limited resources of LDCs means that severe climatic events tax their ability to limit danger, immediately prevent the outbreak of disease and meet the needs of refugees, and to rebuild infrastructure, economies and communities over the long term.” Temperatures in the 20th century increased more than in any century during the last 100 years according to the world meteorological organisation. The intergovernmental panel on climate change projects that global mean temperatures will increase in the 21st century in the range of 1.4 to 5.8 degree Celsius. This warming will be accompanied by an increase in sea level rise of 0.09m to 0.88m by 2100, melting of glaciers and increase in frequency and intensity of extreme climatic events.
The director general of the strategic planning and policy division, Asian branch, of the Canadian international development agency, Philip Baker, said that climate change will have a more critical impact on women. “With increasing drought it is women who have to walk longer distances to collect water.” The experts also stressed the need of NAPA to be integrated into current plans, policies and programmes of the countries. They said that NAPA must be so designed that they have a high likelihood of being implemented, lay groundwork for future adaptation efforts and are consistent with and support the overarching development objectives of a country. The workshop was organised by the LEG, executed by united nations institute for training and research and supported by UNFCCC, united nations development programme, united nations environment programme and global environment facility.
MANILA, Sept. 10 (Xinhuanet) -- Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Tadao Chino Wednesday called for more efforts by the international community to reduce many threats posed by global warming so as to secure sustainable development. Chino told a regional forum here that a number of innovative initiatives and approaches have been made in recent years to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale. We need to build upon this momentum in order to address both the causes and the effects of global warming," he said at the opening session of the three-day Southeast Asia Forum on Greenhouse Gas Mitigation, Market Mechanisms and Sustainable Development.
Some 300 representatives from government, the private and nongovernmental organizations in the region as well as from members of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development are attending the forum, co-hosted by the ADB and the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources. “Climate change is a serious global challenge," said Chino. "The industrial and agricultural development of the past several decades has contributed to the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases on a scale that is changing the delicate ofour climate system."
Developing countries will definitely bear the brunt of the adverse impacts of global climate change, and the poor will sufferthe most, he said. Rising temperatures resulting from the increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere contribute to rising sea levels,which can inundate low-lying islands and coastline and directly impact poor communities, according to the ADB president. Higher temperatures are also expected to intensify storms and droughts which, in turn, can have severe impacts on the health andlivelihood of the poor around the world, he added. Chino said the ADB has been working with many of its developingmember countries to strengthen their capacities in the area of greenhouse gas abatement, such as helping them prepare least-cost plans and identifying approaches for promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Vietnam News Agency
Ha Noi, Sept. 10 (VNA) -- A delegation of senior US climate change policy experts led by Dr. Harlan Watson, Senior Climate Negotiator and Special Representative from US Department of State, is expected to be in Ha Noi on Friday for discussions on US climate change policy with their Vietnamese counterparts, the American embassy said in a press release on Wednesday. The visit to Viet Nam is part of a three-country tour including Thailand, Viet Nam and Malaysia aimed at expanding the outreach of its partnership and assistance into the newly developing countries and explain the US commitment to the multilateral process under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. During the visit, US experts plan to meet with Vice Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Nguyen Cong Thanh and Vice Minister of Science and Technology Bui Manh Hai. They will also meet with other officials from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Industry, Foreign Affairs and Planning and Investment.
Cape Town - Global warming would affect many sectors of the economy, including the insurance industry, according to Munich Reinsurance Company of Africa Limited. Fundamental changes in the world's climate had resulted in more frequent extreme climatic events. Heatwaves, droughts, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes across the world were happening at frequencies and intensities unprecedented in recorded history. "There is no doubt South Africa will be also be directly affected ... both from a climate and insurance perspective," the reinsurer said. "It must also be noted that because of the international nature of insurance and specifically reinsurance, the local market would probably react to the impact of global warming on the international insurance sector."
The South African branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWFSA) supported this view. The 35-year-old conservation agency based in Stellenbosch said it had funded South Africa's first Climate Change Report over the past year, which showed that climate change, within the next 50 to 100 years, would reduce the biomass, including fynbos, grasslands, succulent Karoo and forest, to between 35 percent and 55 percent of its current extent. "Reports from the intergovernmental panel on climate change have verified that global temperatures will increase by up to 5.8¡ by 2100. This could lead to potentially devastating effects, including sea level rise, coastal flooding, extreme weather events, food shortages and species extinction," WWFSA said in its annual report, released last week. Munich said the frequency and extent of losses from major weather catastrophes had already been increasing steadily across the world. It was also true scientists believed that global warming was one of the major causes of these climatic changes.
The Washington Times
KYOTO, Japan — While abnormal weather conditions play havoc around the globe, many residents of this ancient capital are calling for the early enforcement of a protocol to counter climate degradation. "We would like the Kyoto Protocol to be put into force as soon as possible," said Masafumi Kitamura, head of the city's Global Environment Policy Section, referring to the treaty drafted at the 1997 international conference here. World leaders converged then to discuss how to respond to global warming and came up with the Kyoto Protocol, an international framework for countering climate change. Under the protocol, industrial countries are required to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by an average 5.2 percent from 1990 levels by the period between 2008 and 2012.
The United States has rejected the treaty, in part because it exempted China, India, Brazil and other rapidly growing nations from mandatory emission cutbacks. Much of the initial U.S. opposition to the Kyoto accord was based on a belief that the science on global warming has become overly politicized. The Bush administration now accepts the premise that greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are one cause of climate change. But it remains opposed to the Kyoto accord, considering it a flawed treaty that if implemented would do more harm than good. Even without U.S. participation, however, Mr. Kitamura called the Kyoto Protocol a "milestone, since the whole world is getting together to solve a global problem." Since the Kyoto conference, the city's people — residents, journalists, businesses and public officials — have become more aware of environmental issues, he said.
Kyoto residents are proud that their city of shrines and temples was the capital of Japan for 1,200 years. They are also proud that their city's name is now associated with efforts to combat climate change and are quick to cite unusual weather patterns experienced this summer as evidence that global warming is under way. In France, record-breaking heat since late July caused thousands of deaths, largely among the elderly. In India, this year's premonsoon temperatures reached 120 degrees — nine degrees above normal — and at least 1,400 people died from the heat, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Weather anomalies were also seen in the United States, where 562 tornados touched down during May, killing 41 persons, the WMO said. The figure shattered the previous monthly record — 399 in June 1992 — the U.N. weather agency said.
Moreover, much of the Arctic ice cap is expected to melt during the summer season by the end of this century, according to a three-year international study led by professor Ola M. Johannessen at the Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center in Norway. The study, funded by the European Commission, indicated that the area of Arctic sea ice had shrunk by 7.4 percent in the past 25 years, with record-low summer coverage in September 2002. That may be attributable to human emissions like carbon dioxide, the study said. Global average surface temperature during this century will very likely rise at rates unprecedented during last 10,000 years, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was established in 1988 by WMO and the U.N. Environment Program to assess scientific, technical and socioeconomic information relating to climate change. "Global warming is already upon us," John Houghton, co-chairman of the IPCC, told the London Guardian. "[T]he impacts of global warming are such that I have no hesitation in describing it as a weapon of mass destruction," he said.
Mr. Houghton also criticized the United States, saying it "is refusing to take the problem seriously." Tsuyoshi Hara, director of the Kyoto Network on the Prevention of Global Warming, an alliance of activist groups, agreed. Concerned that the delay of ratification of the Kyoto Protocol could accelerate global warming, he blamed the delay mainly on America's "selfish action" of withdrawing from the accord. "The United States should act with global interest, rather than national interest in mind," he said. However, the international agreement is moving forward, albeit slowly. Many now urge Russia to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and on several occasions, Russia has expressed its intention to do so. The Kyoto Protocol comes into force when countries accounting for at least 55 percent of 1990 carbon-dioxide emissions have ratified it. Russia's signature would meet that requirement. The move will be welcome, said Mr. Hara of the Kyoto Network. "The United States should take this opportunity to reflect deeply on its actions and rejoin the Kyoto Protocol."
Canada's ratification of the Kyoto environmental treaty will likely force the United States to do the same in the near future, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien told an environmental group last night. "It will be something that will force our neighbour of the south to do ..." he said to a crowd of about 300 people at a reception at the King Edward Hotel. "We have made an agreement with the oil sector in Alberta. It's not perfect. But they have accepted the absolute necessity for them to adjust. "If we can do that in Canada, they can do that anywhere in the world." Chrétien received an award for Advancing the Environmental Agenda from the Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy (CIELAP), which hosted the reception in honour of their 33rd anniversary — the first time the award is being given. "You (Chrétien) took a bold and politically difficult step on Kyoto and held firm to it under great pressure from provincial government and many within the business community," said CIELAP President David Powell. "We believe (Chrétien) has shown real environmental leadership."
Anne Mitchell, executive director for the not-for-profit environmental group, also cited Chrétien's devotion to establishing national parks while he was minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development under former prime minister Pierre Trudeau. Chrétien's government passed the species-at-risk act last year, which protects 233 species. Anyone who harms or threatens these endangered animals may be subject to prosecution or penalty. In August, Chrétien announced a $1 billion five-year investment to combat global warming. The spending program, which includes home energy — efficiency rebates, technology funding and other measures — aims to get individuals, industry and governments to meet Canada's pledges under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, now ratified by 113 states. The federal government predicted it would buy 12 to 20 megatonnes of reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Chrétien said being involved in the environment was one of his greatest joys in his public life.
Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister dedicated Downsview Park — touted as a major national urban park — to Canadians. The design concept, created by Tree City Inc., was unveiled and the last stage of public consultation is beginning. "It's a great day for the quality of life for the people of the biggest city in Canada," he said. "So enjoy Downsview Park for the rest of your lives."
The federal government made plans for a park after announcing the closing of the Canadian Forces Base in 1994. Chrétien said he's been frustrated by the time it's taken to see the plans for the 243-hectare park materialize, blaming "complications in the system." Chrétien joked about staying in power until February and said one of his greatest pleasures — aside from quitting in a few months — was creating new national parks.
CHICAGO - One metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions is worth an average 98 cents this year, dropping to an average 84 cents in 2005, according to the first auction of emission allowances announced this week by the new Chicago Climate Exchange. Richard Sandor, the exchange's chairman and chief executive officer, said the auction marked the first multinational, public trading of greenhouse gases. Scientists believe greenhouse gases, released by burning fossil fuels, cause climate change by trapping the sun's heat in the atmosphere.
The sealed-bid auction attracted 22 bidders for 100,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide allowances for 2003, resulting in 20 successful bids. For 2005, 25,000 metric tons of the gas were offered, with all five bidders successful, exchange officials said.
The exchange, which Sandor said will provide continuous electronic trading of allowances for greenhouse gases beginning in late October, has 22 members, including utility American Electric Power Co. Inc., carmaker Ford Motor Co. cellphone and semiconductor company Motorola Inc. and the city of Chicago. The members have agreed to cut their North American emissions by 1 percent a year over four years and can trade allowances that reflect their emission cuts on the exchange. If their emissions were higher than those allowances, they could buy more from the market. If they were lower, they could sell them, according to Sandor. However, each member would be responsible for achieving its required reduction in emissions every year.
While committing to a voluntary decrease in emissions, members can benefit from improved operating efficiencies resulting from the reductions that can aid their operations in other countries that restrict emissions. Members can also possibly profit from buying and selling the allowances, exchange officials said.
The emissions cuts are voluntary, companies in the U.S. are not required to cap their emissions of greenhouse gases. Those gases are thought by many scientists to cause global warming by trapping the sun's heat in the atmosphere. Bruce Braine, a vice president at American Electric Power, which owns several coal-burning power plants, said the exchange would establish prices for emissions to help the utility determine whether to be a buyer or seller.
The Asahi Shimbun
As demand develops for the fuel alternative, they can also earn emissions rights to trade. Anticipating growing demand for environmentally friendly fuels, the nation's big trading houses are gearing up to enter the market for so-called bioethanol derived from sugar cane and other organic materials. Gasoline containing bioethanol is a promising fuel alternative in the battle to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, believed to be the main cause of global warming. Trading firms are eyeing ethanol production facilities as well as refining and distribution businesses. But that's not the whole story behind their enthusiasm. By producing bioethanol, trading houses can earn emissions credits they can sell to companies having difficulty reducing their emissions.
Under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the carbon dioxide released by bioethanol when burned is not counted toward emissions. That's because sugar cane and other plants from which bioethanol is derived absorb carbon dioxide when they grow. Gasoline containing bioethanol has become popular in Brazil and the United States, while India, Thailand and the European Union are also moving to introduce the fuel. In Japan, fuel-related legislation and ordinances were revised last month, making it possible for gasoline to be mixed with 3 percent ethanol. The Environment Ministry intends to introduce gasoline with 3 percent ethanol starting fiscal 2004 and make gas containing 10 percent ethanol the standard by around 2010. Mitsui & Co. has developed equipment to refine bioethanol using nanotechnology. By filtering the ethanol through a membrane with extremely fine permeability, the company has managed to achieve nearly 100 percent purity at a discount of 20 to 30 percent from existing distillation methods.
In April, the trading giant set up a demonstration plant in Brazil, a major sugar cane producer.
In collaboration with Brazilian trading houses, Mitsui is planning to launch a market survey on exporting ethanol to Japan. Meanwhile, Marubeni Corp., along with Tsukishima Kikai Co. and a Thai company, plans to put the finishing touches on a commercial plant in Thailand as early as fiscal 2005. The plant will employ technology for which Marubeni and Tsukishima have exclusive rights. The technology is extremely efficient at extracting alcohol from sugar-cane waste and tapioca using genetically modified bacteria. The plant, which will cost between 2 and 3 billion yen to build, will produce 30,000 kiloliters of ethanol a year. The ethanol will be sold in Thailand but could be exported to Japan if demand develops. Itochu Corp. is readying to enter the bioethanol business next fiscal year. In tandem with firms supplying advanced processing technology and government authorities, the trading house plans to build a demonstration plant in Japan to produce ethanol using wood waste as a raw material.
In October last year, Itochu began surveys in California on bioethanol usage as well as government subsidies for ethanol products. Mitsubishi Corp., meanwhile, is considering using plant technology patented by the Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth, which is located in Kizu, Kyoto Prefecture. And finally, Sumitomo Corp. is moving ahead with a plan to import ethanol. According to Mitsui figures, global demand for bioethanol was 34 million kiloliters in 2002. Some estimates project demand reaching 43 million kiloliters by 2005. High prices could be an obstacle, however. Observers say government subsidies and other incentives may be needed to kick-start the market
Sydney Morning Herald
Millions of trees will be planted in NSW to soak up greenhouse gas emissions under a $172 million deal signed yesterday by the Premier, Bob Carr, yesterday. The agreement with the multinational company STMicroelectronics is only the second under the state's carbon-credit legislation in five years. STMicroelectronics, a semiconductor manufacturer, will plant up to 12 million native hardwoods and plantation pines on 12,000 hectares near Taree, Port Macquarie, Casino and Grafton over the next seven years, creating about 250 jobs, Mr Carr said. "The new trees would soak up about 7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide - the main gas causing global warming. This is the equivalent to taking about 60,000 cars off the road each year for 30 years."
NSW was a world pioneer in legislating in 1998 for carbon credits - a means by which companies may offset their greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto protocol. But only one other deal has been signed under the NSW Greenhouse Gas Abatement Scheme - with the Tokyo Electric Power Company, which planted 4000 hectares of trees on the south-west slopes and near Casino. Tony O'Hara, State Forests' general manager, investment services, said the scheme was hampered because Australia has not ratified the Kyoto protocol. Mr O'Hara said State Forests was talking to companies from the Netherlands, Italy, France and Britain but all were reluctant to invest because it was unclear whether they would be able to trade carbon credits generated here for those that were compatible with the Kyoto protocol. "In terms of our ability to extend this business over time, that certainly holds companies back," he said. Greens spokesman Paul Sheridan called the deal a "short-term solution because it's saying to people who pollute, 'here's a way you can get away with it'." "Unfortunately, we see it as a feelgood measure that ignores the long-term implication of greenhouse gases."
Edie weekly summaries
Using the residue of forestry operations as a source of energy production could reduce European Union CO2 emissions by four to six per cent - significantly helping it to meet its Kyoto targets, says a report launched at the World Forestry Congress in Quebec this week Forestry waste could be used to cut greenhouse emissions. World Forests, Society and the Environment, published by the United Nations University, estimates that ‘logging residue’, such as twigs, needles and tree stumps, in the EU could produce the energy equivalent of eight million tonnes of oil – the annual average used by Ireland, Finland or Denmark.
“For countries rich in forests, substituting wood for fossil fuels is an attractive means to meet obligations of the Kyoto protocol,” says the summary of the report. “Extracting energy from the residue of forestry operations would make valuable use of a vast untapped resource and add nothing to greenhouse gas emissions, since the carbon dioxide from decomposing logging residue is bound for the atmosphere anyway,” says the study.
The report advocates the use of energy production from residual biomass from forest operations, which currently accounts for 3% of EU energy consumption. Professor Hans van Ginkel, UN Under Secretary-General and Rector of the UN University said: “It is already clear that a number of countries will have great difficulty meeting their Kyoto emissions targets. Using wood biomass as an alternative energy could make a significant contribution to their greenhouse gas reduction efforts.”
In Finland technology exists which compresses forest residue into compact form, which is then transported to an energy facility that produces power and heat. New compression technology has recently improved the competitiveness of this resource as an energy supplier, Pekka Kauppi, a professor of environmental science and policy at the University of Helsinki told edie. “It is important that wood-derived energy is economically competitive,” he said.
“However public and private research and development expenditures are important in order to fine tune the production system to meet local conditions in each country and region.” He predicted that if the technologies become implemented in a large scale in forest rich EU countries then the shared benefit of reduced emissions could be shared by the Union as a whole.
Edie weekly summaries
Sixteen rice miller units in West Bengal have set up an organisation within which they hope to become players in the global carbon trading scheme. The Rice Mill Owners’ Green Power Consortium will be focusing on international countries for funds sourcing with the international managements consultants Ernst & Young handling the actual trading negotiations.
The millers had previously being using diesel to power their generators. However for almost a year they have been using a rice-husk based gasifier power plants.
The total energy capacity for these plants is 4MW. Because the millers have substituted polluting energy sources for cleaner production techniques they feel they should be able to claim their share of international funds.
Clean development mechanisms under the Kyoto protocol, are identified as processes which reduce emissions. Countries seeking to offset their emissions production under the Protocol can invest in clean development mechanisms in order to claim credits for greenhouse gas reduction.
SEOUL - Almost 60 percent of South Korean companies are not making any preparations for the implementation of international environment directives, such as the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, a survey revealed on Tuesday.
The poll of 948 local firms conducted by the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade (KIET) showed that when asked about their plans to cope with the directives, 40.6 percent of the respondents said they were "preparing for them," while 59.4 percent said they were not.
By size of firm, 73.5 percent of large corporations said they are actively preparing for the implementation of the regulations, with only 29.3 percent of small and mid-sized firms returning the same answer.
Asked on their awareness of the Kyoto Protocol, 27.3 percent of the respondents answered they were "well informed," 52.7 percent said "slightly aware," while 19.5 percent of them admitted they had almost no idea about the protocol. Nearly 40 percent of large companies were familiar with the protocol while a mere 16.2 percent of small and medium-sized firms offered the same response.
More than 50 percent of the companies said they believed the protocol on climate change will generally have a major impact on their businesses, 33 percent said they did not believe it would have a significant impact, while 7.3 percent said they had no idea as to what effect the protocol would have on their operations.
The survey also showed the Korean firms polled were not spending money to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Roughly 16 percent spent more than 5 percent of their total facility investments on lowering carbon emissions, while 23.9 percent spent below 1 percent of total investments for the same purpose.
Meanwhile, according to the Kyoto Protocol, 38 advanced countries, including South Korea, should reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 percent from their 1990 levels during the 2008-2012 period. However, the countries will be allowed to "buy and sell" carbon emission rights from other countries under the protocol.
This comment appeared as an editorial in the Financial Times.
The World Climate Change Conference opened on Monday in Moscow, providing Russian President Vladimir Putin with a perfect opportunity to announce Russia's ratification of the Kyoto agreement. He did not take it, continuing the studied obfuscation that has characterized Russia's approach. The international response should be unyielding. The Kyoto agreement, designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with climate change, will come into effect only if ratified by countries responsible for 55 percent of those emissions. With the United States and Australia having refused ratification, Russia's participation is now required to meet this threshold.
Russia has abused this position. At the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told delegates that ratification would take place "in the very nearest future." On Monday, over a year later, Putin was still stalling in his speech to the conference. The Kyoto agreement is a gift to Russia. Because of the fall in Russian industrial production since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian emissions have fallen relative to the Kyoto base year of 1990. That means Moscow needs to make no cuts in its emission levels, and stands to gain up to $10 billion a year from selling spare emission permits internationally. Delay is hard to understand but the most likely explanation is simple brinkmanship. The Russians believe the treaty is worth more to others than to Russia.
So far the response from other governments to Putin's speech has been firm. That is the right approach. Both Canada and the European Union have affirmed that they will meet their treaty obligations whether or not the treaty becomes binding. But the real significance of the treaty is that it provides a framework for building institutions necessary to make progress on climate change, including an international permit trading system and a mechanism for rich countries to gain credit by investing in clean technology in poorer countries. Such institutions are growing in strength, and investments in efficient new power plants that could have gone to Russia have already been installed in countries such as Romania. Putin's lukewarm speech was just encouraging enough about eventual ratification that such progress will continue. Further delay hurts Russia most and the EU, the most powerful advocate of the treaty, must be willing to call its bluff.
But if Russia withdraws, the fragile institutions for emissions trading and cross-border investments may be severely damaged. The EU needs to take the lead in reiterating the benefits for Russia, while emphasizing that further sweeteners will not be forthcoming. Putin is a pragmatic man and, the sooner it is clear there is nothing to be gained by holding out, the sooner Russia will ratify the treaty.
Following is today’s message by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the World Conference on Climate Change in Moscow, delivered by Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP):
Scientists and others have been sounding the alarm about climate change for many years now. By the end of this century, as a result of ever-increasing emissions of greenhouse gases, our planet may look very different: with many small islands gone, the Arctic Ocean free of ice for many months of the year, agricultural regions dramatically altered, and our ecological life-support systems under stress as never before. Developing countries are especially vulnerable. If this forecast comes true, our children and grandchildren will not understand how we allowed this to happen.
Fortunately, many governments are listening to the warnings. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change enjoys nearly universal membership. Almost 120 nations have ratified the Kyoto Protocol, an essential first step in tackling this planetary challenge. I join people throughout the world in eagerly awaiting ratification by the Russian Federation, which will bring the Protocol into force and further galvanize global action.
Scientists, for their part, are coordinating and assessing research through organizations such as the World Meteorological Organization, the United Nations Environment Programme and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Many civil society groups are doing their part to sound the alert and advocate for change. In several countries, local authorities are leading the way in reducing emissions. And a number of enlightened corporate leaders are seizing the opportunity to use and develop newer, greener technologies.
Yet we need to do a lot more. Developing countries need help in building up the capacity to adapt to climate change. We must invest in research and develop new technologies. Soon -- very soon -- we should begin thinking about what must be done beyond the first steps set out in the Kyoto Protocol. And as we do all of this, we must also improve the lives of millions of people by fighting poverty, as an overriding priority, and doing so in a way that will not exacerbate climate change but, instead, contribute to abating it.
I congratulate the Russian Federation for organizing this World Conference. Meeting the challenge of climate change can be a uniting force for the world, but it will require vision, leadership and hard work. Please accept my best wishes for the success of this important meeting.
Deutsche Welle's John Hay spoke with Joke-Waller Hunter, executive secretary of the UNFCCC about how Russia could profit from adopting the Kyoto Protocol and the impact of global warming.
HERE IN EUROPE AND IN THE NORTHERN HEMISPHERE IN GENERAL PEOPLE HAVE SEEN AN EXTREMELY HOT SUMMER. IT'S BEEN BILLED AS THE HOTTEST SUMMER IN 2000 YEARS BY SOME. DOES THIS MEAN THAT MORE PEOPLE NOW ACCEPT THE FACT THAT CLIMATE CHANGE IS HAPPENING AND THAT IT IS BEING CAUSED BY HUMAN KIND?
The scientists have already predicted in their models that we will have more extreme weather events in the years to come. We had the floods in 2002, the heat wave in Europe this year -- these are the type of extreme weather events that climate scientists are predicting. So it certainly raises awareness for the issues. It draws the attention of politicians to the issue. I don't think you would find a scientist who would really say that this is all due to the human impact on the climate, but it certainly helps to get it high on the agenda.
BUT HASN'T IT BEEN A SORT OF WAKE-UP CALL? HAVEN'T PEOPLE BEEN COMING TO YOU NOW AND SAYING "WE'VE DOUBTED THE SCIENCE UP TO NOW BUT NOW IT'S QUITE OBVIOUS THAT CLIMATE CHANGE IS TAKING PLACE"?
People do make those remarks and also many politicians are now aware that this is a very serious issue. The impacts are not only felt in the developing countries, which are the most vulnerable to climate change -- given that their food production is under threat if the climate changes -- but they also feel in European countries that something is happening to the climate and that it has huge economic impacts as well as impacts on daily life.
NOW, THERE ARE PEOPLE IN RUSSIA WHO ACTUALLY WELCOME CLIMATE CHANGE, SINCE THEY SAY THAT RUSSIA, AS A COLD COUNTRY, CAN DO WITH A LITTLE MORE WARMTH, THAT IT CAN'T DO ANY HARM IF THE TEMPERATURE RISES AND THAT IT COULD ACTUALLY HELP INCREASE AGRICULTURAL OUTPUT. WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THIS?
Well, I think the Russians are really going through a very elaborate process of cost- benefit analysis, of which agricultural productivity is one element. Others being what it means for energy exports of Russia and energy use in Russia. Generally speaking, the expectation of scientists with regard to the impact of climate change on agricultural productivity is that it will decrease agricultural productivity. And then our colleagues at the bio-diversity convention argue that if a number of the very valuable ecosystems, including some of the ecosystems in the Soviet Union, were turned into agricultural land -- a possibility due to the change in temperature -- then it would be a very significant loss to the world's bio-diversity.
We are most concerned about the agricultural productivity of developing countries because those economies are really dependant on the export of agricultural products to provide the necessary food for their own population. Climate change, combined with and resulting in less water availability, will really have a huge impact on agricultural productivity in many African and Asian countries. I think that's where we really see a growing concern which can only lead to the farmers and the agricultural research adapting to climate change. Some climate change will be inevitable. We have come so far that we cannot avoid it. The carbon stays so long in the atmosphere that whatever we do now we will face some climate change because the damage has already been done. Countries do have to adapt and look at other crops that may have a higher productivity with higher concentrations of carbon in the air.
RUSSIA IS THE THIRD BIGGEST POLLUTER IN THE WORLD, BUT IN MANY WAYS IT'S A DEVELOPING COUNTRY, AN EMERGING ECONOMY, ESPECIALLY WITH REGARDS TO THE IMPLEMENTATION OF TECHNOLOGY. AT THE SAME TIME, THE RUSSIAN ECONOMY IS BOOMING, SO THERE'S A LARGE SCOPE FOR MODERNIZING INDUSTRIES. TO WHAT EXTENT COULD THIS MEAN THAT CLIMATE FRIENDLY TECHNOLOGIES ARE LIKELY TO BE INSTALLED IN THE FUTURE?
That's again one of the incentives for the Russians to ratify the Kyoto protocol because the Kyoto protocol would allow joint implementation of projects within the "Annex 1" countries- the industrialized countries- including the economies in transition, like Russia and some of the other Eastern European countries. The Kyoto protocol would allow much more joint implementation, which would then mean a transfer of technology. Generally speaking, if you would like to reduce your emissions, you benefit if you make your production less energy intensive, which is "win-win" because you have to spend less on the costs for energy and, at the same time, you reduce your emissions. That's quite an important element in the overall implementation of climate change measures. Quite a few of them are "win-wins" and not measures that would really harm the economy. Energy intensity of Russian production at the moment is high, compared to other countries, Japan being an example which has taken very early measures to reduce the energy intensity of the industrial production. There is huge scope for the Russian economy to modernize in such a way that it is both economically attractive and, at the same time, climate friendly.
SHOULD THE RUSSIANS FAIL TO RATIFY BEFORE THE MILAN SUMMIT, WHAT WOULD THAT MEAN FOR THE KYOTO PROCESS?
Well, the Kyoto protocol would enter into force 90 days after the Russians have ratified it and have made it clear to the United Nations in New York. So, if we count the 90 days, it's unlikely because they should have made their move in New York before the 13th of September. It's unlikely that when we have our conference of the parties in Milan in early December that the protocol will have entered into force. It would be quite important that we know at the time of the Milan meeting when it will enter into force. We are still quite confident that the Russians will move at such a pace that at Milan we will know when the protocol will come into force. That would give an enormously positive signal to the conference, to the parties and to the meeting and would really make people even more aware of the need to implement, what they have agreed in an international context.
AND IF THE RUSSIANS FAIL TO RATIFY ALTOGETHER, WHAT WOULD THAT MEAN?
That's what is normally referred to as the Plan B, which we don’t want to think about, but if the Kyoto protocol does not enter into force in the very near future, I think the risk of climate fatigue may kick in
The Asahi Shimbun
Expectations are high; reality is contradictory. As the United States and Britain work to mend frayed relations with France and Germany over the war in Iraq, Russia's President Vladimir Putin was to meet U.S. President George W. Bush at Camp David. Russia, France and Germany opposed the U.S. use of force in Iraq without specific authorization from the U.N. Security Council. Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Russia has supported deployment of U.S. troops in Central Asia to fight terrorism in Afghanistan. Both Putin and Bush have emphasized their close relationship. Russia has not had superpower status for some time. But as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, it still has a heavy responsibility for world peace and stability. It is both a part of Europe and a friend of the United States. It is expected Putin will use that relationship to help mend a world fractured over the war in Iraq.
Putin recently told American journalists his opposition to the war against Iraq has not changed, and he renewed his criticism of American unilateralism. Putin also said the situation in postwar Iraq confirms the Russian position. At the same time, he is willing to work with Bush to advance nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction and to pursue the war against international terrorism. He has also said he will be actively involved in mending U.S.-Europe relations. To rebuild Iraq, it is important that the United States respect international cooperation and give the United Nations a significant and effective role. This also benefits the United States. We hope Putin will try to convince Bush on these points.
Russia has begun to perceive North Korea's nuclear development as a genuine threat. In the six-nation talks late in August, Russia was actively involved in trying to break the impasse. In the next round of talks, we hope Putin will encourage more positive U.S. actions, while urging North Korea to exercise restraint.
Iran's suspected nuclear arms development is another issue. Since Russia has long cooperated with Iran in building its nuclear reactors, Russia holds the key to resolving the issue. We hope Putin will discuss the situation in detail with Bush, since Bush has labeled Iran as part of an ``axis of evil.''
Much is expected of Russia, but there is still much about Russia that is ambiguous.
On one hand, Russia talks of the importance of international cooperation. But when talk turns to the situation in Chechnya, Russia considers it a purely domestic concern and rejects all offers at international mediation. Russia is deeply concerned with the nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran, yet remains indifferent to improving human rights in these and other countries. Russia, while holding a key to ratification of the Kyoto Protocol on curbing greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, has continued to defy international expectations. It is cool toward reform of the U.N. Security Council, perhaps hoping to maintain its established position as a permanent member. Russia is often complex and difficult to fathom. While the country needs international help to scrap its nuclear submarines, a newly minted Russian billionaire can pay a huge sum for an English soccer team. The Soviet Union collapsed 12 years ago. Isn't it about time Russia freed itself from superpower politics to be a normal European nation? That would make its diplomacy more persuasive.