Russia Takes "Final" Step, Again, But Not Really

Russia Takes "Final" Step, Again, But Not Really

Horner Op-ed in EU Reporter
November 04, 2004

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For the third time in a month and fifth time in just over two years, media are breathless with <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Russia's purported ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. While this act seems likely to ultimately consummate as soon even as next spring, Russia continues to withhold what is in fact the only relevant step in determining whether it ratifies the "global warming" treaty covering about 35 countries.That step is submission of Russia's instrument of ratification to the United Nations' office in Bonn, which is the sole Russian act which can bring the treaty in effect.  Recently, "ratification" has been hailed with each internally meaningful, but internationally meaningless, individual step of Putin "approving" the 1997 treaty, the Duma voting in favor, the Federal Council voting in favor, and Putin signing the voted-upon act.  Previously, even passing comments prompted news articles declaring Kyoto's birth (e.g., August 2002).Very soon all expect Russia to submit its ratification, an event which will prompt another in a series of increasingly self-parodying news articles declaring Kyoto in effect.  This will be followed by an identical spate of stories changing only minor details, 90 days later (according to the treaty's terms), hailing for (it is hoped) the final time that Russia has brought the ailing treaty into effect.At that point, however, Europe must face what it has created:  a selective treaty with which only 2 of the EU-15 will comply, leaving all EU countries by the agreement's terms to fend for their own commitment or face sanction.  Given that certain countries, e.g., Spain, are so far over their agreed ration that compliance is beyond fantastic, this will likely prompt a collision between the cities Kyoto and Lisbon.  Both agreements bearing these names have remained fictional, though one is about to at minimum come into force while the other appears ever smaller in the rear view mirror of the EU's rather sputtering economic vehicle.Negotiations over certain Kyoto details resume in Buenos Aires in December, though the first formal "Meeting of the Parties"—at which the details of what exactly has been "agreed" are to be hammered out—will not occur until approximately one year later. Even the BBC now acknowledges Russia's apparent agreement was in return for EU acquiescence to Russia's WTO membership (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3985669.stm).  The U.S. made clear—as did both of its major candidates for president—that Kyoto is not the answer and that, having refused to ratify Kyoto, it is now certain to continue on its own path of reducing "greenhouse gas intensity".With the EU out of compliance, amid continued Russian expressions of concern over what energy emission rationing will do to its recovering economy, and the bulk of the world's countries—and emissions—remaining happily and steadfastly exempt, the idea of Kyoto as written succeeding even if it goes into effect seems a pipe dream.These realities make upcoming Kyoto negotiations important, but the real game is now how the EU addresses both its conflict between Kyoto promises and Lisbon's failure, and how it will address most of the world rejecting Kyoto's restrictions.