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KYOTO PROTOCOL AND CLIMATE CHANGE
15/02/07
MOSCOW. (Viktor Danilov-Danilyan for RIA Novosti)


Two years have passed since the Kyoto Protocol (KP) went into force. A
total of 150 nations have ratified this extraordinary international
document. It embodies humankind’s pragmatism, and is aimed at reducing the
negative anthropogenic influence on the biosphere and the climate.
Preparations for its implementation will be completed this year, and
monitoring of compliance with KP commitments will start in 2008. All
industrialized countries have pledged themselves to reduce emissions by 5%
on 1990 levels, and they will certainly do this. Europe, Canada, and Japan
have launched large-scale preparations for the KP’s implementation.
Russia was slow to act, but now we have made some progress in preparing a
list of emissions sources and a register of emissions reductions. The
Ministry of Economic Development and Trade has focused on this problem,
and, I believe, will adopt appropriate standards, enact delegated
legislation, and streamline the entire inventory system.
It will not be difficult for Russia to abide by its commitments; it has
amassed a huge reserve of emissions credits because of an economic decline
in the 1990s. Despite its growing economy, by 2012 Russia will by no means
exceed the level of emissions in 1990, which is the KP’s year of
departure.
The energy-saving process began in Russia in the 1990s entirely as a result
of market prices. These were later supplemented by new parameters of energy
efficiency. The current technologies available on the world market are of a
later generation (using the monstrous Siemens-Martin double-hearth furnace
with its record energy-output ratio is totally out of the question in the
Russian steel industry).
But in Russia, energy use per unit of GDP is 3.1 times greater than in the
European Union (before the admission of new members). Some 25%-30% can be
chalked up to the cold climate, but by and large we continue heating the
world around us, wasting a lot of energy. The power industry uses
hydrocarbons to generate 75% of its energy, and the higher the energy
efficiency, the lower the energy intensity, and, hence, the less carbon
dioxide goes into the air.
The KP’s measures are intended to progressively modify the general energy
balance. Its joint implementation projects could help re-equip the industry
with less energy-intensive and more environmentally friendly technologies.
These projects provide for direct investment in upgrading production, and
payment will be received in the form of saved emissions. They could
guarantee our industry much-needed modernization without (or with very
modest) financial expenditures.
But we do not have proper legislation for such joint implementation
projects. Our Western partners are interested in cooperating with us and
have subjected Russia to heavy criticism more than once. For them, Russia
is a close, familiar, and highly profitable market, but we are not letting
them in.
Any economist or analyst would applaud more sensible spending on global
aims. The gist of the KP is to develop mechanisms which would rationalize
spending as much as possible. For instance, Denmark, Britain, and Germany
have to pay through the nose for emissions reductions in their countries.
In this case, they could spend money to reach the same goals in other
countries where similar measures cost much less, achieving a tangible
environmental improvement.
Global warming-related problems are getting worse with every passing year.
The KP, which aims at slowing down this process, is therefore gaining in
importance. Every new report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change points to an increasing anthropogenic contribution to climate
change; the percentage of that change for which humankind is responsible
went up from 60% five years ago to 90% last January. Predictions of warming
in the 21st century have been going up as well. Initially, experts
mentioned 1 degree Celsius, then 1.5. Now optimists are talking about 2
degrees, while pessimists predict 6.5 degrees by the late 21st century.
There are quite a few experts that call into doubt the climatic effect that
the KP’s measures will have. Now the concentration of greenhouse gases in
the air is about 370 ppm (carbon dioxide in parts per million). By 2012,
this figure is expected to grow by 18 ppm if the Kyoto measures are not
carried out, or by 16-17 ppm if they are. The difference is a mere one or
two ppm. This is what the Kyoto Protocol’s critics emphasize. But experts
believe that even a 1 ppm reduction would be quite good. If we proceed at
such a pace, we may eventually be able to stabilize humanity’s influence on
the climate.

Viktor Danilov-Danilyan is a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of
Sciences and director of the Water Problems Institute.
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