17 October 2008

Russia Doubts CO2 Market Can Fix Climate Change

by Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent, Planet Ark, October 17, 2008

OSLO - Moscow doubts carbon trading can solve climate change because recent swings in stock and commodities prices show markets are unable to fix global problems, an official Russian document showed.

The document, outlining Russian views on a new UN climate pact meant to be agreed in December 2009, also expressed scepticism about tough international targets for greenhouse gases and said any deal should not be "punitive" to violators.

"Market approaches are one of (the) effective means to reduce costs (of curbing emissions), but not a panacea in tackling climate change," according to the Russian document posted on the website of the UN Climate Change Secretariat.

"The latest events in the global stock market or food market show that we have not entered yet an era when the global market can become a reliable regulative mechanism of the international efforts in answering global challenges of...mankind," it said.

Russia, the world's number three greenhouse gas emitter behind China and the United States, ratified the current UN Kyoto Protocol in 2004 only after years of debate about whether to take on targets for greenhouse gas emissions.

Many industrialised nations are now having second thoughts about costly commitments to fight climate change because of the global financial crisis. But many view carbon trading as a cornerstone of a future treaty.

In the United States, presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain both favour a "cap and trade" system shunned by President George W. Bush.

"The balance of supply and demand in the carbon market can become a tool of speculative actions," the three-page Russian document said. It was posted in recent days, as part of suggestions for a new treaty.

Soviet Smokestacks

Russian emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels, have plunged by about a third since the collapse of Soviet-era smokestack industries.

Russia's goal under Kyoto is to keep emissions below 1990 levels until 2012, which means it can sell the shortfall -- totalling 1.14 billion tonnes for 2006 -- worth up to 15 euros (US$20.21) a tonne. But Moscow fears its emissions may surpass 1990 levels in coming years because of strong economic growth.

Russia also questioned an agreement last year by industrialised nations to consider emissions cuts of 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 as part of a new treaty, the strictest levels advised by the UN Climate Panel.

"We consider unreasonable to set a collective range for reduction of emissions for a group of countries," it said. The panel said cuts could help avert droughts, heatwaves, species extinctions and rising sea levels.

The document reaffirmed support for a "vision" by the Group of Eight for world cuts in greenhouse gases of 50 percent by 2050 but says any new period of the Kyoto Protocol, now running to 2012, should be "flexible" and "should not be punitive".

Both Russia and Japan, in a separate submission, said more countries should be involved in fighting climate change. Only 37 industrialised nations have binding commitments to curb emissions until 2012 under the current Kyoto Protocol.

Japan said outsiders, including South Korea and Mexico which joined the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in the 1990s after the Kyoto club was formed, should take on targets for cuts.

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(Editing by Philippa Fletcher)
© 2008 Reuters Limited

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