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North America's Source for Oil and Gas News
March 2004

Vol. 7, No. 10 Week of March 07, 2004

Kyoto an economic ‘death camp,’ flawed

Putin advisor says climate-change treaty would doom Russia to ‘poverty, backwardness;’ says Kyoto science could be flawed

Gary Park

Petroleum News Calgary Correspondent

The fate of the Kyoto climate-change treaty is dangling by a slender thread, awaiting a make-or-break decision by Russia and facing the first signs of crumbling in the European Union solidarity.

Whatever happens in Europe, the global protocol would disintegrate if Russia opted out.

Kyoto’s objective of cutting developed nations’ emissions of greenhouse gases by 8 percent below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012 can only survive if countries accounting for 55 percent of emissions ratify the pact.

To date, nations signing on to the Kyoto account for 44 percent, with Russia holding a pivotal veto of 17 percent.

Andrei Illarionov, economic advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin, told reporters in Calgary Feb. 25 that ratification could consign the Russian economy to a “death camp (of) poverty, weakness, backwardness.”

He said the protocol is “incompatible” with Russia’s goal of doubling its gross domestic product by 2010.

Illarionov: science flawed

Illarionov, relying on 4,500 years of climatological data, said the science behind Kyoto is flawed and possibly falsified.

Noting that global temperatures were warmer in the 15th century, he said “there were not too many cars using fossil fuels then.”

As well, he said data compiled by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change showed a drop in global temperature between 1940 and the late 1970s, during an age of rapid economic growth spurred by hydrocarbon exploration and consumption. Illarionov asked that that if humans are responsible for global warming, why did temperatures decrease over a 40-year period.

He said Russia is demanding more information from the Intergovernmental Panel as it completes an analysis of climate change — a process it is in no hurry to complete.

“When the analysis is finished the Russian government will take a decision on the Kyoto Protocol, according to the Russian national interest,” he said, echoing previous comments by Putin.

Russia may opt out of Kyoto

Eugene Khartukov, an economist with the Moscow-based PetroMarket Research Group, said Russia may opt out of Kyoto because of the impact it would have on a burgeoning oil and gas industry.

Illarionov said Kyoto is obviously favored by countries that are more dependent on nuclear energy and aimed against the use of hydrocarbons, suggesting Greenpeace and the ecological movement should understand that they are “actually fighting for a nuclear future.”

Illarionov said the European Union, which has the most to gain economically from Kyoto, is putting pressure on Russia to ratify.

Split occurring in Europe

But a split is occurring in Europe, with Loyola de Palacio, the European Commission vice president in charge of energy and transport, calling for a rethink on implementing the protocol.

In an interview with the Financial Times Feb. 25, she insisted Europe should stick to the Kyoto target, while debating whether there are better ways to achieve the objective.

De Palacio noted that Russia is unlikely to ratify, meaning the agreement would be voided. That prediction poses a challenge to European Union legislation seeking to lower greenhouse gas emissions through an emissions trading system based on national reduction targets.

Commission President Romano Prodi responded by insisting the commission “strongly rejects all calls to change its position concerning the ratification ... and its full implementation” in Europe.

Canada’s Environment Minister David Anderson, an unflinching proponent of Kyoto, said Feb. 27 that based on his discussions with the Russian government he still expects Russia to ratify, adding the Russians “play the game of good cop, bad cop.”

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