Stephen A. Fuqua (SAF) is a Bahá'í, programmer, and conservation and interfaith advocate in the DFW area of Texas.

September 30, 2004

Russia Supports Kyoto - Maybe

It was declared today that Russian President Vladimir Putin has at last expressed his approvalof the Kyoto Protocol on Global Climage Change. If he can get this through the Duma for ratification, then the Protocol will become international law despite the US's lack of ratification. But what is really going on? And how will it effect the U.S.?

In Russian Ratification of Kyoto Lost in the Fog, published on the 29th, Putin is quoted as having said "The Russian Government is meticulously examining this question and is studying all the difficult problems associated with it." That is hardly a strong or urgent endorsement of the Treaty.

Nevertheless, the New York Times reports that the Russian Cabinet has approved the Treaty and formally submitted it to the Duma for consideration. Knowing Putin's power in Russia, it would seem that the way forward is clear, and the Treaty will be ratified. Once ratified, it will officially go into effect 90 days later.

But I'm not so sure that the Times has interpreted the signals correctly. Both the Times and the BBC report that Putin's top economic adviser as recently as today has said that it shouldn't be ratified, and just yesterday (Wed) said that it would not be ratified. Perhaps Putin is playing a game with us?

In fact, the Times does hint at this possibility, saying that several American anti-Kyoto industrialists believe it is a ruse by Putin, who will allow the treaty to fail in the Duma to show that he doesn't them completely in his palm.

Adding more confusion to it all, Russia's Prime Minister earlier in the month declared, "We consider that ratification will take place in the very nearest future." But who's ever heard of Mikhail Kasyanov? I can recall a time when the Prime Minister of Russia seemed to be a meaningful job, but that was back when Clinton and Gingrich were arguing over American support for the Protocol.

In the end, those of us who support the Treaty's provisions (and see lack of American support as disgraceful and cowardly) can only hope that the Cabinet's approval is a positive sign and that the Duma will shortly ratify it.

One thing I would like to know is: would ratification have any effect on the U.S.? As a non-signatory, does it do anything to us? Of course the Europeans are not happy with us, and this could do much to gather their support for Russia in other arenas (particularly in WTO negotiations, as most of the articles above note).

Surprisingly little news of this on the blog front - yet. If any readers can point to go, "non-canned" analysis of the prospects for ratification, then please drop a comment here and let the rest of us know.