The Warming War heats up

Putin gives Kyoto the green light

Feature Story - 2004-09-30
George Bush's government is out in the cold over Kyoto - and it's that old Cold War enemy, Russia, that's put it there. The Russian government has moved closer towards ratifying the crucial Kyoto climate change treaty. But while Bush hangs out in hurricane-ravaged Florida before his first election debate, the US government continues to criticise the Kyoto Treaty.

Greenpeace activists in 19 countries demonstrated in 2003 in front of Russian Embassies urging President Putin to sign the Kyoto Protocol.

The tipping point

Whatever Putin's motives, the fact that he and the Russian government have taken this first step is undoubtedly good news for anyone worried about climate change - and a slap in the face for George Bush and oil companies like ExxonMobil. The Kyoto ratification comes as a breath of fresh (and unpolluted) air at a time when news headlines are dominated by oil dependency and extreme weather horror stories.

"As the Earth is battered by increasing storms, floods and droughts, President Putin has brought us to a pivotal point in human history today," said Greenpeace Climate Campaigner, Steve Sawyer.

The final decision about whether or not Russia will ratify Kyoto now rests with the Russian Parliament, the Duma. If it votes in favour, the Kyoto Protocol will enter into force and will become international law, a decision likely to happen within a few weeks. The Protocol must be ratified by no less than 55 countries accounting for at least 55 percent of global emissions in 1990, so Russia could finally tip the scale.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

But George W. Bush insists on raining on the parade. The US emits one fifth of the world's greenhouse gases, so unless the US ratifies or at the very least changes its domestic policies - a scenario distinctly unlikely under Bush - Kyoto will not fully achieve its targets. "Kyoto is 'an unrealistic and ever-tightening regulatory straitjacket, curtailing energy consumption'," said the US Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs, in the Financial Times.

The US and Australia have not yet ratified the treaty, but they are definitely out in the cold on this one - as of July 29th 2004, 124 countries had ratified.

What now?

The Kyoto Protocol is an important first step in tackling climate change - but there is still a long way to go. "To tackle climate change we must stop relying on oil, coal and gas to meet our energy needs and urgently redirect our investment into safer, cleaner sources of energy such as wind, wave and solar power," said Steve Sawyer.

More information

Find out more about the impacts of climate change

More about the Kyoto Protocol

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