#13 - JRL 7261
July 22, 2003
ANTI-KYOTO CASE WILL NOT STAND UP TO EXAMINATION
By Victor DANILOV-DANILYAN, director, Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Water Problems, Corresponding Member of Russian Academy of Sciences
No one expected Russia to become the stumbling block in the way of the Kyoto Protocol, a key, pragmatic and humane document. To get some perspective, here is a brief background to the Kyoto Protocol. In 1988, the UN General Assembly concluded that global climate was out of balance due to human activity and this was one of the causes of current and future climate change. In 1992, the UN conference on the environment and development in Rio de Janeiro signed a framework UN convention on climate change, and in 1997 adopted the Kyoto Protocol.
Russia is one of the players working to shape a climate change policy. It now appears that its vote is crucial: unless Russia's ratifies it, the Kyoto Protocol will not enter into force. However, ratification is being held up by protocol opponents. They appeared as soon as the document was agreed and opened for signature. Time goes on, but the case being put by Kyoto opponents remains the same, although a lot of counter-arguments have been brought forward.
What then are the main arguments of the opponents? One of them is that the undertaking Russia is assuming under the Kyoto Protocol - not to exceed greenhouse gas emissions recorded in 1990 - may prove a factor slowing our economic development. This argument will not stand up to examination, because not a single realistic scenario exists in which the Russian economy would reach the emissions level it produced in 1990 even by 2020. Consequently, in the next 17 to 20 years, whatever the course of developments, we shall simply be unable to discharge as many greenhouse gases as in 1990.
Other arguments too disprove the supposition that the Kyoto obligations may slow Russia's development. Here is the most elementary reasoning: in 2000, our economy's GDP had halved in comparison with 1990, while greenhouse gas emissions had fallen by 30 to 35 per cent. This means that in order to get back to 1990 gas emissions volumes, GDP would have to rise to the level of the same year. But that calls for new equipment and new fixed assets (about one-third of the country's former fixed assets no longer exists). The most accurate estimates formulated in line with the energy programme approved by the Russian government and ideas prepared by the Economic Development and Trade Ministry for President Putin's plan to double GDP in ten years show that we are not only failing to return to the 1990 figures, but even failing to use the existing unused margin (30-35 per cent) of greenhouse gas emissions. We shall have something like 3 billion tons of gases unaccounted for, in carbon terms, which we could use without violating the Kyoto undertakings.
Another often-repeated argument of opponents is that under the Kyoto Protocol Russia must set up a control system to monitor greenhouse gas discharges and regularly report to the secretariat of the Framework Convention on Climate Change. And this, they say, is expensive and unproductive, because there will be leaks about our industry. But this claim is rubbish. Russia is to set up the control system not under the terms of the Kyoto Protocol, but under the Framework Convention on Climate Change, the law on whose ratification was adopted by the State Duma back in 1994, approved by the Federation Council and signed by the Russian president. Moreover, the control system is a very useful and economically recoupable thing. It brings order to energy consumption. The experience of British Petroleum can be cited, as it began using the system in 2000. After a year it yielded 800 million dollars in profit, recouping itself within several months. The effect came from simply putting its business in order, which was even then no doubt incomparably better than the present state of the best Russian companies. So if we deal with the control system sensibly, the effect will be impressive.
Now let us take a rough guess at how much money will be needed to develop such a system.
First, there is no need for a meter on every factory chimney, as some believe. Atmospheric emissions of carbon dioxide are fully determined from the volume of fuel burnt and carbon content in it. So what is needed is elementary control over the use of fuel in the national economy. The entire environmental monitoring system, i.e. to keep tabs on the environment, the atmosphere, effluents and radiation pollution, requires less than three-hundredths of one per cent of state budget spending. A system to monitor greenhouse gases will cost 100 times less, so we have here statistically elusive and imperceptible levels of financing. So the argument about "big spending" supposedly needed to introduce a control system in keeping with the Kyoto Protocol is absolutely futile and testifies to the incompetence of those advancing it.
I would also like to mention the considerable forces in favour of the Kyoto Protocol. Many of Russia's biggest companies have already realised that they will benefit from the document's ratification. There are more than 30 of them now, including Gazprom, the national power grid Unified Energy Systems, Russian Aluminium, etc. This is not a poll result, though a survey, I am sure, would produce a result of 95 per cent in favour of the protocol. I am speaking about the companies that on their own initiative have expressed their support for ratification.
So why is no progress being made on ratifying the Kyoto Protocol? To begin with, nothing is done quickly in Russia, as that is the kind of country we live in. Both President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov promised ratification, but appear to be taking their time, evidently wishing to gain some further advantages. But all of them were secured during the drafting stage. It is unrealistic to try and get further benefits. Those people who say we should "haggle" with Europe are speaking nonsense, since Europe has already agreed to unheard-of concessions as the protocol was jointly hammered out. I know this because I personally took part in numerous talks connected with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the drafting of the Kyoto Protocol. I know that Russian Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko, whose brief includes dealing with the Kyoto Protocol, has received an opinion from the Economic Development and Trade Ministry saying, in black and white, that the document cannot be a restraining factor on Russia's development, at least until 2015.
The Kyoto Protocol is also resisted by some climate experts, including Academician Yuri Izrael. Their central argument is that the prerequisites for the Kyoto Protocol are not scientifically substantiated. The document proceeds from the assumption that, first, the climate changes are down to man-made effects, and, second, that by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and restoring appropriate ecosystems, climate change can be slowed. The climate specialists, however, say that the climate has always changed and will continue to do so, Kyoto Protocol or no. To my mind, this approach substitutes the subject. No one any longer regards the Kyoto Protocol as a climate-changing measure. Regardless of climate, it is a very useful document. It is an economic and environmental tool. Its economic significance lies in the fact that it cuts down hydrocarbon fuel consumption and helps restore natural ecosystems. I explained all this when I met President Vladimir Putin. I offered him the following comparison: 100 years ago when Tsiolkovsky was laying the foundations of space exploration as a science, he dreamed of flights to the stars. Today thousands of satellites are orbiting the Earth, dealing with defence tasks, providing a new quality of communications, studying terrestrial resources from outer space, monitoring the environment, etc. But no one dreams of flights to the stars any more.
The author's opinion may not necessarily be shared by editorial office/