“The biggest step forward in environmental politics and law we have ever seen.” That was how the head of the climate change programme at conservation group WWF describes the Russian parliament’s ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. The Duma, the lower house, approved it by 334 votes for to 73 against. The 1997 treaty will come into effect worldwide three months after it passes Russia’s upper house of parliament and is signed by President Vladimir Putin.
In May, President Putin agreed to speed up Kyoto’s ratification, in exchange for the EU supporting Moscow’s bid to join the World Trade Organization. But his own economic adviser fiercely opposes the move, arguing it could undermine Putin’s plan to double gross domestic product within 10 years. Kyoto obliges rich nations to cut overall emissions of carbon dioxide to 5.2 per cent below 1990 levels by 2012. To be effective, the treaty must be ratified by developed nations accounting for at least 55 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. It has depended on Russian approval since the US, which produces at least 30 per cent, pulled out of the agreement in 2001.