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Last Updated: Friday, 3 October, 2003, 18:34 GMT 19:34 UK
Climate talks end without result
Hirsch, BBC
By Tim Hirsch
BBC environment correspondent

The World Climate Change Conference in Moscow has ended inconclusively - and with bad-tempered recriminations directed at its organisers, the Russian Government.

President Putin at Moscow climate conference
The Kremlin has yet to take a final decision
The only outcome of the five-day conference was a bland statement speaking of "lively discussions" about the Kyoto Protocol and of valuable contributions from Russian scientists which would help to inform future debates about global warming.

The event was ostensibly an opportunity for scientists from around the world to present and discuss their latest research into the issue of climate change and its impacts.

But the week was overshadowed by growing doubts as to whether President Vladimir Putin would live up to his previous commitment to ratify the Kyoto agreement on curbing greenhouse gas emissions - without Russia's involvement, the UN protocol is dead.

The best outcome of the meeting was that the climate sceptics were allowed full rein and utterly destroyed their own case
John Lanchbery
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
Mr Putin himself set the scene during his opening speech on Monday, in which he said his government was still studying the pros and cons of Kyoto and that a decision on whether to ratify would only be taken once that was complete.

This caused considerable frustration for those keen to see Kyoto come into force quickly and that frustration was compounded by repeated interventions from one of his key advisers, raising a raft of objections to the treaty.

'Recipe for poverty'

Andrei Illarionov, who advises Mr Putin on economic policy, signalled his doubts about Kyoto in comments to BBC News Online on Tuesday, and followed them up with several contributions in the conference hall questioning the science of climate change.

Agreed at Kyoto, Japan in 1997
Commits industrialised nations to reduce emissions of six greenhouse gases
Emission cuts to average 5.2% below 1990 levels within 10 years
US withdrew in 2001

In his final comments, Mr Illarionov told journalists at the conference that the agreement would "doom Russia to poverty, weakness and backwardness".

His argument is that Russia's ambition to double the size of its economy in a decade would be jeopardised if it observed the target under Kyoto to keep greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2012 - even though current emissions are 32% down due to the collapse of traditional industry.

That is dismissed by experts such as Professor Michael Grubb of Imperial College London, UK, who told BBC News Online: "When we look at Central Europe we discover that even in the most advanced economies in transition which have started booming, emissions are pretty flat.

"The reason is very simple: these old economies have a lot of inefficiency, and part of the restructuring process is getting rid of the emissions associated with old industrial plants.

"I see no reason at all why Russia should be any different, and frankly nor do I know anyone in the Russian energy ministry who believes what has been said in some quarters about booming energy emissions."

Negative value

The conference did hear contributions from some figures inside the Russian Government machine who gave a much more upbeat assessment of the impacts for the country from ratifying the protocol.

But it was understandably the comments of Mr Putin and his senior adviser which got far more attention.

Among those expressing anger at the conference was John Lanchbery, climate campaigner for the UK's Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

"Many of us came here keen to hear from Russia's own scientists and discuss the new data," he said.

"However, Russia has quite cynically used the conference to play the Kyoto card.

"The best outcome of the meeting was that the climate sceptics were allowed full rein and utterly destroyed their own case."

That may be wishful thinking but some observers do feel that it was useful for the usually private debate over Kyoto within the Russian Government establishment to be flushed out into the open.

Kremlin politics are notoriously difficult to read, and it may be too early to write off the Kyoto Protocol completely.

Russia rows further away from Kyoto
30 Sep 03  |  Science/Nature
Putin attacked for Kyoto delay
29 Sep 03  |  Science/Nature
Kyoto treaty in the balance
29 Sep 03  |  In Depth
Climate change: The big emitters
29 Sep 03  |  Science/Nature
UK enlists world's help to predict climate
12 Sep 03  |  Science/Nature
What is the Kyoto treaty?
03 Sep 02  |  Europe


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