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Duma Ratifies Kyoto Protocol

The State Duma ratified the Kyoto Protocol on Friday after less than two hours of debate, bringing the international treaty to limit greenhouse gases just a heartbeat away from coming into force worldwide.

A positive vote had been widely forecast after the Cabinet endorsed the treaty Sept. 30, but European governments and environmental groups, who have lobbied hard for Russia to ratify, hailed the move as a key victory in the global battle against climate change.

Without Russia's support Kyoto would have been scrapped, and Russia's ratification will make the treaty binding. The treaty must still be approved by the Federation Council and signed by President Vladimir Putin, although these steps are seen as formalities. The Federation Council is to consider the bill on Wednesday.

The Kyoto Protocol calls on industrialized countries to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, thought to be the cause of global warming, to previously agreed target levels by 2012.

Russia's target is equivalent to its 1990 emissions levels. Thanks to the collapse of Soviet-era heavy industry following the breakup of the Soviet Union, the country now produces about 30 percent less than that amount.

The Kyoto Protocol was rammed through the Duma on Friday by United Russia, although deputies from the Liberal Democratic Party, the Communist Party and Rodina lashed out against it.

Kyoto's supporters argue that the treaty will bring Russia economic rewards since it will allow Russia to sell any unused emissions quotas to countries that do not meet their reduction targets.

But Alexei Ostrovsky, a deputy from the LDPR, said that even if Russia has extra quotas, it probably will not be able to turn them into profit. The country could theoretically make $15 billion to $20 billion from quota sales, "but no one says they will buy these quotas from us," he said, according to Interfax.

European leaders insist there will be a market for Russia's extra quotas.

United Russia's Anatoly Aksakov, deputy chairman of the Credit Organizations and Financial Markets Committee, said Russia could gain $20 billion to $40 billion in environment-friendly investments under the terms of the treaty.

Kyoto supporters have long argued that Russia could earn billions from so-called "joint-implementation projects," in which a foreign investor pays to reduce emissions in Russia but counts the emissions reductions for his own country or company.

The motion passed with 334 votes for, 73 against and two abstentions.

Putin spoke out in favor of the Kyoto Protocol after the European Union backed Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organization this spring, prompting widespread speculation that the two issues were unofficially linked.

Environmentalists celebrated the Duma's vote, but many of Kyoto's supporters say its real significance lies in establishing a framework for further international efforts to fight climate change.

The Kyoto Protocol was originally designed to reduce greenhouse emissions by a total of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels among industrialized countries. But since the United States has backed out of the treaty, many experts say that even if all countries meet their targets, total emissions will be reduced by even less.

Kyoto's supporters called on the United States to move forward on climate change.

A spokesman for the U.S. State Department said Friday that the United States will not change its position on ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, according to Agence France Presse.

Once Putin signs off on Kyoto and Russia's documents are delivered to the United Nations, the treaty will go into effect within 90 days.

(The Moscow Times 25.x.04)

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