Russian Embassies throughout Europe are being targeted by Friends of the Earth campaigners on Monday (8 September) over the Russian Government’s failure to ratify the Kyoto climate treaty, the only international treaty to cut pollution causing climate change. The environmental campaign group is accusing the Russian Government of stalling on the crucial climate treaty and using it as a bargaining chip as part of its efforts to join the World Trade Organisation. The latest WTO ministerial talks open later this week in Cancun, Mexico.

Embassies in the UK, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway and Denmark will all be targeted by the protest which takes place on the eve of the opening of the Duma [1] – the Russian Parliament.

Evidence of man-made climate change is clear. Top climate scientists say there is no other explanation for recent weather patterns. In June this year, the World Meteorological Organisation announced record levels of extreme weather events such as tornadoes, floods and droughts around the globe. Since then a heat wave has gripped Europe, leading to an estimated 20,000 deaths. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that freak weather events are likely to become more frequent if global temperatures rise by up to six degrees, as forecast.

The Kyoto Protocol is the essential first step towards international action to tackle climate change. The Kyoto Protocol commits developed nations to an average cut of 5% in emissions of the greenhouse gases that are causing climate change. So far 113 countries have ratified it. But since US President George Bush said that America, the world’s biggest polluter, wouldn’t ratify the protocol, it can only enter into force and become legally binding if ratified by Russia. Russia’s failure to ratify is delaying its implementation and preventing negotiation on a second, bigger round of emissions cuts [2]. Campaigners are calling on President Putin to show world leadership, and ensure that Russia ratifies the Kyoto Protocol immediately.

Friends of the Earth International?s Climate Campaigner Kate Hampton said:

“Despite the promises, President Putin has failed to show leadership on tackling climate change. Other nations, particularly the EU, must put pressure on Russia to ratify Kyoto now. But ratification must not be linked to Russian membership of the WTO. We have already lost two years of climate negotiations since governments agreed on global climate rules in 2001. And this summer’s heatwave shows more than ever that global warming is a mass killer.”


[1] On September 9 the Russian parliament, the Duma, reopens after its summer recess.

[2] The Kyoto formula for entry into force is that 55 countries and countries representing 55% of industrialised country carbon dioxide emissions must ratify the treaty (carbon dioxide is the principal greenhouse gas causing climate change). 113 countries, including countries representing 44.2% of industrialised country emissions, have ratified so far, so entry into force now depends on Russia (source Russia’s role became crucial when the Bush administration pulled out of Kyoto in 2001. The US represents 25% of world emissions but 36% of the emissions of industrialised countries. Russia represents 17% of industrialised emissions and is the only country that holds the key to the Kyoto formula.

At the Johannesburg World Summit, heads of government urged all countries that had not yet done so to ratify the Kyoto Protocol as soon as possible. President Putin and other prominent members of the Russian government declared that Russia intends to do so. However, a ratification instrument was not presented by the executive branch to the Duma in its last session. Preparation of the ratification instrument has been mired in departmental in-fighting within the Russian government, which has also been using the delay as an economic and political bargaining chip.

Most recently, the Russian Prime Minister sought to link Kyoto ratification with Russia?s accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The energy sector has been a focal point of negotiations in Russia’s talks with WTO members, especially the EU and the US. The EU is arguing that Russian domestic energy prices are subsidised, with domestic gas prices standing at one sixth of the world gas price. The EU says Russia is providing an unfair advantage to its industry and therefore subsidising exports. Russia contends that low domestic gas prices are a function of Russia’s comparative advantage in energy, arising from abundant oil and gas reserves. The EU wants the Russian government to break up Gazprom, meeting stiff opposition from Russia which has argued that the Russian energy giant is benefiting from a natural monopoly . Meanwhile, securing access to Russian gas will be important to the EU in achieving its Kyoto targets because gas releases less carbon dioxide per unit of output that coal and oil. However, there is a fear that, without higher domestic energy pricing in Russia, the EU may increasingly rely on imports of energy-intensive goods from Russia, undermining emissions reductions at home. This brings to the fore more than ever the need for consistent climate and energy policy across the globe, starting with entry into force of Kyoto.

Although Russian membership is not officially on the agenda at Cancun, momentum is building in the run up to the next round of Russian WTO membership negotiations at the end of September. This is around the same time as the Russian world climate conference, when some observers expect Russia to announce the date for ratification.

Russia stands to accrue considerable economic, political and environmental benefits from becoming a Kyoto Party. One potential benefit will be greater access to financial and technical assistance in making the transition to a more efficient, more competitive clean energy future. This could be achieved through targeted use of the Kyoto Protocol’s project-based Joint Implementation mechanism, although sales of Russian ‘hot air’ on the international emissions trading market could undermine the environmental integrity of the Protocol by limiting the need for emissions reductions in the EU, but especially in Canada and Japan which are further off target.

The delay in Russian ratification has already prevented the 9th Conference of the Parties – scheduled for early December in Milan – from becoming the 1st Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol. This means that a second crucial year of negotiations has been lost since the Marrakech Accords were finalised in 2001. Further delay in Russian ratification could well undermine progress in the implementation of climate policy outside Russia by relieving pressure for compliance with Kyoto targets. Discussion on further reductions needed to prevent dangerous climate change in accordance with the ultimate objective of the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change – to which Russia is already a Party – is also being prevented by the delay.


Neil Verlander
Press Office
Friends of the Earth
020 7566 1649 or 01223 309 308(t)
07712 843 209 (m)
07654 663 764(p)


Where: Outside the Russian Consulate, 5 Kensington Palace Gardens, London W8

When: 10am, Monday 8 September 2003

What: Campaigners wearing swim-suits, Wellington boots and carrying umbrellas (symbolising unpredictable weather) and holding huge weather symbols will call on President Putin to stop changing our climate.