Russian Duma Approves Kyoto Protocol

The Duma, the lower house of parliament, voted 334-73 to ratify the treaty. The Kyoto Protocol calls for developed nations to lower the emissions of six key greenhouse gases to 5.2 percent below the levels of 1990 within eight years by curbing use of coal, oil and natural gas and shifting to cleaner energies like solar and wind power.

The U.N. accord is already backed by 126 countries, but it needed Russia’s support to make it internationally binding after the United States, the world’s biggest polluter, pulled out in 2001. President Bush has said the treaty is “in many ways unrealistic,” and argued that “arbitrary and non-scientific environmental goals” would hurt the U.S. economy.

Russia’s upper house is expected to approve the measure Wednesday, and President Vladimir Putin is expected to sign it.

If all goes as anticipated, the environmental treaty will have passed the required threshold of countries and emissions levels, and will go into effect 90 days after Russia’s ratification.

Putin favors the Kyoto Protocol because he believes it could strengthen Russia’s international power. In May, the Russian president promised to swiftly ratify the protocol if the European Union supported his request to join the World Trade Organization.

“By ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, Russia in fact is strengthening its international authority and becoming an ecological leader,” Vladimir Grachev, chairman of the Duma’s ecology committee, told the chamber before the vote, the AP reported.

Russia’s presidential economic adviser is strongly opposed to the protocol, but other Russian officials do not believe the treaty’s restrictions will hurt the country’s economy.

Russia’s minister for economic development and trade, German Gref, said the protocol could help modernize Russian industry.

The Kyoto Protocol would “open up the possibility of significantly solving [Russia’s] problems of energy efficiency, energy supply and adaptation to climatic changes by receiving in fact free international resources,” Grachev said, the AP reported.

Supporters of the protocol applauded Russia’s decision but said the treaty still needs help from big-polluting countries such as the U.S., China and India. Otherwise, the protocol would be irrelevant in its aim to combat global warming.

“The big challenge will be to get involvement by the United States, big developing countries like China, India, Brazil and Indonesia,” said Paal Prestrud, head of the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research.

Some scientists warn there could be a catastrophic rise in temperatures unless action is taken to stop global warming. The Kyoto Protocol aims to curb the greenhouse gases causing the global warming but it will not solve the entire problem, experts said.

“We must now redouble efforts to deliver the even deeper cuts in emissions needed,” said Klaus Toepfer, head of the U.N. Environment Programme, the AP reported.