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Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Update: Russia and Kyoto

In December, Russia seemed to flip-flop on the question of Kyoto ratification. One official reported that Russia was unlikely ever to ratify the global warming pact, another claimed that Russia was "moving toward ratification."

This is important because the Bush administration's rejection of Kyoto puts Russia in the driver's seat. Canada, the EU, and Japan have all joined, but the treaty cannot go into effect without either the US or Russia.

Russia easily meets the treaty's terms because factories from the cold war era have been closed and its greenhouse gas emissions are dramatically reduced from the 1990 treaty base year. Thus, Russia has little reason to oppose the accord. Indeed, Russia could earn billions of dollars by selling emission quotas.

In October, I guessed that the EU might offer something valuable to Russia in return for its ratification.

Last week, Anders Åslund provided specificity to my claim. Writing in the International Herald Tribune, Åslund suggested that Russian and EU officials could strike a deal as soon as their next meeting in Moscow April 22, or perhaps at the EU-Russia summit scheduled for May 21.

Basically, the EU could agree to support Russia's entry into the WTO in exchange for President Vladimir Putin's support of Kyoto. Åslund does not offer evidence that this deal is likely to be concluded, but it seems logical -- and EU concerns over Russian natural gas export prices are a key remaining barrier to Russian entry into the WTO.

If Russia and the EU strike this deal, the Kerry campaign might be able to leverage Kyoto as an environmental issue against Bush this summer. Of course, high gasoline prices might mitigate this somewhat, but really hot weather and drought could make the topic quite newsworthy.

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