Russia backs away from statement on Kyoto pact

Kremlin has not decided, economic minister says

December 04, 2003|By Alex Rodriguez | Alex Rodriguez,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

MOSCOW - Russia took pains yesterday to back away from a top Kremlin aide's remarks that the country would not ratify a landmark accord aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, stressing that Moscow has yet to make a decision about the international pact.

On Tuesday, Andrei Illarionov, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin's economic issues adviser, appeared to deal a fatal blow to the controversial 1997 Kyoto Protocol, saying Moscow could not ratify the pact in its current form. The agreement needs Russia's approval to be put into force.

However, Russia's deputy economic minister said yesterday that Moscow has not reached a decision.

"There are no decisions about ratification, apart from the fact that we are moving toward ratification," Mukhamed Tsikhanov said at a news briefing.

Tsikhanov would not explain the contradiction between his remarks and what Illarionov had said a day earlier.

"I cannot comment on Illarionov, but we do not have any information in the government about the fact that a decision has been made," Tsikhanov said.

Illarionov is known as an ardent critic of the Kyoto pact, which is aimed at reducing the emission of gases blamed for global warming. He made his remarks to reporters at the Kremlin after Putin's meeting with European and Russian businessmen, and said that Putin had laid out his objections to the pact at that meeting.

Advocates of the Kyoto pact said yesterday that the contradiction between the remarks made by Tsikhanov and Illarionov suggested that Illarionov's remarks did not reflect the Kremlin's official position on the accord. A year ago, Russia had indicated its willingness to approve the Kyoto pact, though Putin expressed concern in September about its likely impact on Russia's economy.

"This just illustrates that Illarionov was speaking on behalf of himself and no one else, and certainly not on behalf of the Russian government," said Steven Guilbeault, a climate specialist with the environmental group Greenpeace.

To take effect, the protocol must be approved by 55 industrial countries that cumulatively represent at least 55 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. With the United States declining to sign the pact, Russia is the only other large industrial polluter that could put the pact over the 55 percent threshold.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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