Climate Deal Hits Russian Roadblock

ReutersPenguin stress-relievers bearing environmental messages were given out to delegates at the UN climate conference.
MONTREAL -- Russia blocked agreement at a UN climate meeting on Saturday by objecting to details of a proposal to extend the Kyoto Protocol on global warming beyond 2012.

Moscow's refusal also blocked approval of a separate Canadian plan to open new talks on a long-term fight against climate change to include Kyoto outsiders such as the United States and developing nations such as India and China.

"The document as it stands now does not command consensus," Russian chief negotiator Alexander Bedritsky told the 189-nation meeting during a marathon session stretching into the early hours.

Russia proposed that any agreement should allow all nations, not just the wealthy industrial countries, to be able to offer voluntary commitments in reducing greenhouse gases.

Kyoto's first phase does not include the developing world or big, and rapidly growing, polluters such as India and China, and a major theme of the Montreal talks is how to bring them on board.

Other ministers praised Russia for bringing Kyoto to life -- its "yes" enabled Kyoto to enter into force in February 2005 after years of delays -- but urged Moscow to back off.

"If it were not for Russia, the Kyoto Protocol would not be in force," British Environment Minister Margaret Beckett told weary delegates, adding that Moscow deserved a place of honor.

But she said this was not the time to scuttle the historic talks. "It would be a tragedy if a further decision by the Russian Federation would block more progress."

Under Kyoto, about 40 industrialized nations have to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases.

The United States, the biggest emitter, pulled out of Kyoto in 2001, denouncing it as an economic straitjacket.

The draft decision would urge rich nations to decide new commitments beyond 2012 as early as possible without setting a detailed timetable.

Earlier, the talks had been nearing a breakthrough after the United States agreed to a Canadian plan for nations to join an open-ended "dialogue" about combating climate change under the United Nations' 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Poor countries have no targets under Kyoto and say that rich industrial states have to take the lead in cutting emissions after fueling their economies with coal, oil and gas.