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Moscow Times
November 3, 2009
Putin Backs Post-Kyoto Initiative
By Alex Anishyuk

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin gave tentative backing Monday to a Danish initiative on emissions that could replace the Kyoto Protocol, but he said the document must take into account Russian interests, including its massive CO2-absorbing forests.

Lars Loekke Rasmussen, his Danish counterpart, was in Moscow for a one-day working visit ahead of a major United Nations conference on climate change, to be held in Copenhagen on Dec. 7-18. Negotiators from 180 countries will discuss a new framework to replace Kyoto, which expires in 2012.

“Are we ready to support Danish efforts to promote the ideas of the post-Kyoto period? Yes, we are,” Putin said after the negotiations with Rasmussen, adding that Moscow had “two issues” that must be considered.

“The first one has a global character and means that all the countries, especially those that have the most emissions ­ the world’s largest economies ­ should sign this document, otherwise it makes no sense at all,” Putin said in an apparent reference to the United States, which never ratified the protocol.

Additionally, Moscow “will insist that the capabilities of its forests to absorb CO2 should be taken into account” by the new agreement.

Environmentalists said Putin’s demands were not a significant departure from the current emissions-reduction framework.

“One of the principles of the Kyoto Protocol allows donor countries, or those with major forest resources like Russia, to produce more carbon dioxide,” said Mikhail Kreindlin, an analyst with Greenpeace. “From an environmental point of view, it makes no difference which country produces more CO2 and which one less. We should reduce overall emissions and keep forests alive,” he said.

Putin signed a decree last week allowing state-controlled Sberbank to manage auctions within the Kyoto Protocol. The decree also regulates the management of joint implementation projects, which could bring up to 40 billion euros ($59 billion) in foreign investments through 2020.

The so-called joint implementation mechanism allows a country with an emissions reduction or limitation commitment under the protocol to earn emission reduction units, or ERUs, from projects in another country, each equivalent to one ton of CO2.

The units can be counted toward meeting a country’s Kyoto target.

So far, only a few are under way in Russia, with the largest one implemented by Rosneft and Carbon Trade and Finance SICAR, a German-Russian joint-enterprise.

Putin said bilateral relations between Moscow and Copenhagen were developing both politically and economically, praising increased trade ties last year. Trade has fallen about 20 percent this year after rising by nearly 40 percent in 2008, he said.

Rasmussen invited Putin to visit Copenhagen in December to attend the conference and also invited President Dmitry Medvedev to come in April.

The visit comes amid warming ties between the countries. On Oct. 20, Denmark became the first state to give the green light to the Gazprom-led Nord Stream gas pipeline to Germany. The project passes through the territorial waters of several European countries, a number of which have raised environmental concerns about the pipeline’s route.

Environmental officials from Finland, Germany, Sweden and Russia must still approve the Nord Stream project.

Putin praised Denmark’s decision, saying it improved bilateral relations, and he noted that Denmark would be allowed to re-export gas delivered via Nord Stream. After the launch of the pipeline, planned for 2012, Denmark will get 1 billion cubic meters of gas per year ­ a volume that could be tripled in the future.

Russia allowed European Union countries to re-export its gas after the European Commission demanded in 2001 that a ban be lifted. Moscow still does not permit members of the Commonwealth of Independent States to re-export Russian gas.

Russian and Danish relations became tense earlier this decade, after Copenhagen refused to extradite Akhmed Zakayev in 2002, an aide and spokesman for the elected Chechen separatist president Aslan Maskhadov, who was killed by the Federal Security Service in 2005. Zakayev now lives in London, where he has political asylum.

The countries have also sparred over claims to the massive natural resources deposits in the Arctic, which are becoming increasingly accessible as polar ice melts.

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