Kyoto Protocol in Peril
The news from Moscow on Tuesday was not good — Russia, a senior official said, had decided not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. Combined with President Bush's decision two years ago to abandon the pact, Russia's rejection would have effectively killed it. Then yesterday came word that it might have been a false alarm, a negotiating tactic to strengthen Moscow's leverage in economic talks with the European Union, and that Russia was indeed "moving toward" ratification.
Let us hope this is the case. The 1997 protocol has many flaws. It is, however, the only international response to the global warming problem thus far devised, and at the very least it provides a plausible framework for collective international action.
One would never know this by listening to the Bush administration. Indeed, it can be argued that Russia would not be having second thoughts about the Kyoto accord had Mr. Bush himself decided not to bail out. Under the terms of the agreement, Russia — whose economy collapsed in the 1990's, and whose global-warming emissions were thus well below the limits imposed by the treaty — would have profited handsomely from selling unused emissions credits to countries with booming economies. But the market for these credits, and Russia's potential economic gains, diminished sharply when the United States, which would have been a major buyer of credits, pulled out.
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