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Russian Cabinet Approves Kyoto Climate Treaty - 2004-09-30

Russia's cabinet has approved the Kyoto Protocol and sent it to the parliament for ratification where it is widely expected to pass.

Russia's government took up the issue of the Kyoto Protocol at the request of President Vladimir Putin. Just last week, Mr. Putin asked five ministries to come up with a final recommendation on whether or not to ratify the treaty.

More than 100 nations have already signed on to the protocol to reduce emissions of gases like carbon dioxide, which has been blamed for higher global temperatures, as well as for causing heat waves, floods and droughts.

Environmentalists in Russia and the West have long urged Moscow to quickly ratify the pact. Natalya Olefirenko of Moscow's Greenpeace office said Thursday's news was a welcome relief.

But Ms. Olefirenko and other environmentalists say they also fear that key opponents within the government, like President Putin's economic advisor, Andrei Illarioniv, could still try to sabotage the decision.

Mr. Putin's economic advisor, Andrei Illarioniv, said the decision was not one "made with pleasure." Long a fierce opponent of the pact, he characterized the cabinet's approval as "forced" and political in nature.

Mr. Illarionov said he also still believes that joining the pact will hinder Russia's economic growth.

Opposing Mr. Illarionov, Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov said Russia's refusal to ratify the protocol would have resulted in political and economic losses.

The protocol, agreed to back in 1997, must be ratified by enough countries to account for 55 percent of global emissions. Since the United State's pulled out three years ago, the treaty has been dependent on Russian ratification.

Russia's lower house of parliament, the Duma is not expected to take up the matter for another three months. Approval would clear the way for the Kyoto Protocol to then come into force in another three months.