Image courtesy of JackVersloot via flickr
When in Rome: Joining its fellow top polluters -- China, India and the U.S. -- Russia has signaled it would rebuff the imposition of tougher emission standards, casting doubt on the prospects for a future U.N.-mediated climate treaty, reports Reuters' Alister Doyle. Government officials said last week that the country wouldn't accept binding caps under a new deal to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, set to expire by the end of 2012.This follows the debacle that was last year's Bali climate talks, in which the U.S. delegation was (rightly) criticized for its meek -- if not non-existent -- "leadership" role in pushing for ambitious new targets. It also neatly falls into line with President Bush's recent speech on climate change, which, as was noted here and many other sites, kicked the can down the road again.
The Russians argued that mandating cuts would harm the country's "emerging" middle class and impose an unnecessary burden on its energy companies. Some are claiming that its position could yet be open to negotiation -- assuming the incentives are there. As Nick Mabey, an environmental think tanker cited in the article, explains, its statement should be taken with a "grain of salt" as the country has "a lot of potential for energy savings."
Indeed, because its emissions -- estimated to lie around 2.13b tons in 2005 -- are still comfortably within Kyoto standards (roughly 28.7% below the 1990 baseline), Russia would like to keep the requirements loose so it can continue to expand at a fast clip over the next few years. A U.N. scenario to reduce emissions to 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020 would crimp its ambitious growth plans, officials fear.
A post-Bush presidency will need to muster all its bargaining chips and influence to press for a climate treaty that imposes stringent standards while accommodating other emitters' economic development. Saving the next U.N. treaty will be a challenge, but one that all world leaders will have to commit to in order to improve on Kyoto's meek accomplishments.