Kremlin Gets Tougher on Emissions

ria-novostiMedvedev meeting with Mironov on Wednesday. Mironov backed emission cuts at a Wednesday forum on Kyoto.
Government leaders pledged budget funds for clean energy and called for limits on greenhouse gas emissions in a reversal of the country's earlier reluctance to embrace the Kyoto Protocol and energy efficiency.

"We must limit ourselves. We must limit any emissions that accelerate global warming or simply pollute the environment," Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov told a conference Wednesday.

His comments came a day after President Dmitry Medvedev called an ad hoc meeting of top government officials to discuss clean and efficient energy, a theme he has driven to the foreground since coming to power in May.

"I cannot neglect the necessity of overhauling the system of ecological responsibility," Medvedev said Tuesday, promising to earmark funds from the 2009-2011 budgets for green energy projects.

Mironov, addressing the annual "Russia and the Kyoto Protocol" summit, became the first high-level official to depart from the country's earlier stance of not accepting emissions cuts.

That position, voiced in April by the department in charge of Kyoto compliance, sparked fears that Russia would pull out of the next round of the treaty, undermining its chances of success.

But on Wednesday Mironov said, "I am absolutely convinced that both the Kyoto Protocol and the post-Kyoto process are vitally important."

Russia was not obliged to reduce its emissions in the current round of the protocol, which lasts from 2008 to 2012, while most European nations agreed to cuts of around 5 percent from 1990 levels.

But the next round of Kyoto, under negotiation to succeed the current treaty, is expected to be stricter with Russia. Some fear this might lead Russia, a vital Kyoto partner, to pull out of the process entirely.

Deputy Economic Development Minister Vsevolod Gavrilov, the country's top Kyoto official, said in April that Moscow would not accept cuts for the "foreseeable future," arguing that the middle class and heavy industry needed to use energy freely.

Asked to respond to this position, Mironov, who is more influential than Gavrilov but is not directly responsible for Kyoto policy, took a more open stance and welcomed negotiations on the matter.

"Russia in the post-Kyoto period must provide for itself a fixed role in the emission of carbon," he said. "We should not be reckless in taking on these responsibilities."

Gavrilov -- who in March pledged to approach clean energy projects "from a principle of rejection" -- was not attending the conference.

For Mironov, who has been a vocal participant in debates over Kyoto, the comments were an about-face.

In his keynote speech at the same conference last year, he denied the existence of global warming, the basic assumption behind the Kyoto protocol, and said a process of global cooling was in fact taking place.

n President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday ordered a cut in national energy consumption of at least 40 percent by 2020, Bloomberg reported.

In a decree on "increasing the energy- and environmental-efficiency of the Russian economy," Medvedev demanded the cut to "guarantee the rational and environmentally responsible use of energy and energy resources," the news agency said.