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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Illarionov Pours Cold Water on Kyoto Protocol

Presidential economic adviser Andrei Illarionov outlined strong reservations Tuesday about ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, saying the pact to limit greenhouse gas emissions is not sufficiently founded on science and would put constraints on Russia's economic growth.

Although Illarionov stopped short of ruling out Russia's ratification of the protocol, which is necessary for it to take effect, his strong criticism of the agreement appeared to leave little hope for approval of the document.

Illarionov spoke to reporters on the sidelines of the UN World Climate Change Conference. He made the remarks after Putin said Monday that his Cabinet had not yet made up its mind whether Russia must ratify the protocol.

To go into effect, the 1997 protocol must be ratified by no fewer than 55 countries, accounting for at least 55 percent of global emissions in 1990. Since the United States has rejected the treaty, the minimum can be reached only with Russia's ratification.

Illarionov said the United States and Australia opted out of the protocol after finding out that compliance would be too costly, and that it would be even less affordable for Russia, which has a much smaller economy.

He elaborated on Putin's statement Monday that Russia could benefit from global warming, saying that warmer temperatures would help increase harvests, cut energy consumption and open ice-encrusted seas to navigation.

"Public opinion was artificially focused on negative consequences of climate change, but there are also positive consequences for both our country and the planet as a whole," Illarionov said.

Deputy Emergency Situations Minister Yury Vorobyov challenged Illarionov's optimism, telling the conference that warmer temperatures could increase the number of catastrophic floods and damage energy pipelines and other infrastructure in the north.

Whatever the consequences, Illarionov voiced doubts about global warming being a stable trend, echoing Russian scientists who told the conference that the Kyoto Protocol's advocates had failed to prove that emissions trigger global warming. They pointed at other factors, such as volcanic eruptions and the ocean's impact, saying they need to be more thoroughly analyzed.

The Kyoto Protocol calls for countries to reduce their level of greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2012. If a country exceeds the emissions level, it could be forced to cut back industrial production.

Russia's emissions have fallen by 32 percent since 1990 largely due to the post-Soviet industrial meltdown, but they have started to rise again as the economy revives.

Illarionov said the Kyoto Protocol would hamper Putin's goal of doubling gross domestic product in 10 years and the subsequent growth by requiring Russia to start a costly overhaul of its industries in order to cut emissions.

He said that doubling GDP will bring Russia's emissions to 104 percent of their 1990 level, conflicting with the protocol.

"But Russia isn't going to stop at this level, so the carbon dioxide level will be much higher," Illarionov said.

He said the United States, China and many other nations staying out of the protocol account for 68 percent of global emissions, making the document largely senseless. He said Russia currently accounts for some 6 percent of global emissions compared to the U.S. share of 25 percent and China's 13 percent.

"We are facing a bizarre situation when Russia, which makes less emissions, must cut them, while nations which make much more, like the United States and China, won't curb them," Illarionov said.

"That raises the question about the document's efficiency," he added.

"No matter what sacrifice Russia makes, it won't bring us closer to the goal. It would be strange to undertake such obligations if they aren't universal."