Putin vows to speed up ratification, but does not promise to ratify

by William Yeatman on May 27, 2004

in Kyoto Negotiations, Politics

Speaking at the conclusion of the European Union-Russia summit in Moscow on May 20, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would “speed up ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.”  The news came as a surprise given the increasingly strong condemnations of the protocol’s effects on Russia by Putin’s chief economic adviser, Andrei Illarionov, and the report of the Russian Academy of Sciences that found the protocol lacked “scientific substantiation” (see story in Science section below).  Putin made clear that there was an element of quid pro quo in his announcement, saying, “The EU has met us half way in talks over the WTO and that cannot but affect positively our position on the Kyoto Protocol.”

However, Russia’s president left himself some wiggle room.  He said that Russia continues to have difficulties with the obligations it would have to take on-a clear reference to Illarionov’s disquiet at Russia having to pledge to reduce its emissions while no such restrictions would be imposed on countries like India and China, which Russia views as its rivals.
Putin also pointed out that ratification was the formal responsibility of the Duma (parliament).  In April, three Duma committees- for ecology, the economy and international affairs-issued a joint statement that, “Ratification [of the protocol] is inexpedient given the U.S. pullout and the non-participation of many countries with high levels of man-made impact on climatic processes.”
Moreover, the involvement of the Duma raises another interesting issue related to Russia’s internal politics and the perception of Putin’s rule as authoritarian.  Vladimir Milov, head of the Institute of Energy Policy, told newspaper Vremya Nostoy (May 25), “I am not convinced that the books on this matter have been closed.   The president gave quite a transparent hint, saying that this should be decided by parliament. This is generally a good argument for showing that there is in Russia democracy and a parliament, which might not agree with the opinion of the president.  Considering the overall negative background in respect to the Kyoto Protocol, there could, in my view, be a serious continuation of the parliament ‘story’.”

It is probably because of these caveats and recent history on the issue that reaction from environmental groups to the announcement was muted. Jennifer Morgan of the World Wildlife Fund said, “I think Putin’s announcement is a major step forward. But we need and urge Putin to specify a timetable.  He should encourage the Duma to do something as soon as possible,” recognizing that he said nothing to indicate what he meant by ‘speeding up’ ratification.  (Reuters, various reports, May 21-22)

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