The Kyoto Protocol: Russia Debates Whether to Join and Cut Emissions

Russia may take part in the second period of the Kyoto Protocol, that’s what the press tends to say. This implies a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. However, it is not clear what the outcome would be for Russia and, most importantly, whether it’ll improve the environmental situation. It's a dilemma: to cut or not to cut [emissions] ... to join not to join?

The Kyoto Protocol is the world's first agreement on the protection of the environment, which implies not prohibitive, but only market mechanisms to regulate emissions. One of the main ones is trading quotas on greenhouse gas emissions. The system is simple in appearance; a total amount of emissions, that a country can 'afford,' is determined. Then, within this framework each pollutant-company is given its 'own' share. If the amount of emissions is less than planned, it is possible to sell the leftovers. In spite of 'taxes on smoke,' this mechanism has the greatest impact on the ecological situation, as it allows precisely controlling the damage caused to nature. That is, it is known in advance that the certain substance will be released into the atmosphere in a certain amount. In this case, there is a clear commitment to reducing emissions. The logic of the traditional kinds of environmental charges is slightly different: Pollute the atmosphere – please, be ready to pay for it.

The first period of the protocol began in 2008 and will end at the end of this year. The second period begins in 2013 and will last for five years.

It should be noted that, during the summer, Russia's position on the issue of the second period of the Kyoto Protocol was clear — not to participate. Unwillingness was simple — participating in the world agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions was recognized by the Russian side as meaningless, since there were no major pollutants — China, the U.S., Brazil, India and Japan.

Now, the point of view has changed. At least, official governmental sources have reported that authorities are hesitating. The pollutant-companies, odd as it may seem, were the initiators of the entry to the second period of the Kyoto Protocol. Such decision is not surely motivated by a love to nature; it’s not more than the mercantile interests. The fact is that the companies continued and currently continue to carry out or simply prepare projects of enterprises, emission reductions that are scheduled till 2020. And this is supposed to be direct investment in the country's economy.

Meanwhile, the global market for quotas trading is experiencing a period of decline. So, he European trading system already reached critical minimum. True, this does not stop the world's developed countries. The Chinese, the Japanese and Australians have already stated the importance of establishing such systems. Apparently, it's not just the point of economics. The truth is, Americans are in no hurry to join the agreement.

High record heated debates are in full play. The debate on the release of the greenhouse effect and how it will affect the environment in some decades is in fact secondary. What is important — what we breathe now. And it is clear that a person's lungs are not designed to breathe all this 'cocktail,' which our civilization offers us. So all the agreements on the emissions’ reductions will only benefit the land, and the people living on it.

However, there is another point of view: the internal carbon management can be a strong lever of influence on the authorities. So with the 'green' acts of the entry initiator in the second period, you may have to take another whole stack of supporting documents explaining the rules of the game.