[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 17 February 2005, 09:39 GMT
Russian firms turn Kyoto pioneers
By Sarah Rainsford
BBC News, Archangel, northern Russia

Archangel Pulp and Paper mill
Archangel Pulp and Paper mill has set its own targets
For some businesses in the Russian town of Archangel, the Kyoto protocol is an opportunity to modernise, make money and help the environment.

An icy wind drives gusts of snow across the frozen river Dvina in Archangel.

It is only around -15C on the thermometer but out in the open the wind is piercing.

In a climate as harsh as this it is hardly surprising that locals like Nikolai welcome any sign of global warming.

"The winters are definitely getting warmer these days," he smiles. "That's much better for my garden - and it costs less to heat my house."

Nikolai confesses he has little clue about the Kyoto protocol, but the factories in this far northern town have cottoned on early to its potential.

At Archangel Pulp and Paper mill, they call themselves Russia's pioneers of the protocol.

Economic ideals

Russia is under no obligation yet to cut its greenhouse gases. The collapse of industry in the 1990s means levels remain relatively low. But this factory has already set its own voluntary targets.

"We've calculated that we can cut our greenhouse gas emissions by 12% in the first Kyoto period even whilst we're increasing production," explains mill director Vladimir Beloglazov.

Building new boiler at mill
It's no secret that we see Kyoto as cheap money to help us modernise
Vadim Eremeev

"We want to sell that 'clean air.' It could make us up to $25m (13.2m), and that's money we could re-invest to cut emissions further."

Mr Beloglazov freely admits his priorities are economic, not environmental. But like an increasing number of businessmen in his town, he sees Kyoto as a way of combining the two.

In the paper mill's latest ''green'' project, they're installing a new boiler designed to burn the wood-chips they used to throw away. It will be cheaper, more efficient and cleaner than coal - just one of many proposed improvements.

But ideas mean little without funds and back in Moscow progress on implementing Kyoto is slow.

As the world's number three polluter, Russia's signature was crucial to bring the protocol into force. The debate was heated, but Moscow eventually traded ratification for support for its efforts to join the WTO.

Three months on, there is still little consensus on the new legislation required and little sign of the obligatory inventory of emissions.

So some fear Russia is still not 100% committed to Kyoto. It is a suggestion officials here hotly deny.

"The time of compliance is 2007. We hope that in 2006 the Russian Federation will be completely in compliance with all requirements of the protocol," says Vsevolod Gavrilov from Russia's Ministry of Economic Development.

"We plan to construct a competitive economy and we can't do that without modernisation. Kyoto is one of the stimuli to increase efficiency.''

Sticky pipes

Back in Archangel, they are itching to put those financial arguments into practice. Vadim Eremeev points to clouds of black smoke billowing from two crumbling brick chimneys at a city heating plant.

"We have more than 1,500 boiler houses like this here and almost all of them need urgent repair," Vadim explains, an official from Archangel's Energy Efficiency Fund.

Municipal boiler
Hundreds of boiler houses in Archangel are in need of repair

Inside, a web of ageing pipes is caked in sticky black fuel-oil.

Under Kyoto, more developed countries could invest directly in places like this, cleaning-up Russian industry in return for clean-air credits. Vadim argues even modest investment here would produce significant improvement.

"It's no secret that we see Kyoto as cheap money to help us modernise," he confesses, shouting through the hiss of the giant boilers. "There's huge scope for that across Russia. But if we relied on Moscow alone for funds, it would take decades."

Archangel is keen to lead the way on Kyoto, certain the opportunities are enormous. They are impatient to see the basic rules of the game drawn-up in Moscow.

But until then, even the finest plans are hot air.


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific