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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Duma Ratifies Kyoto Protocol

The State Duma ratified the Kyoto Protocol on Friday after less than two hours of debate, bringing the international treaty to limit greenhouse gases just a heartbeat away from coming into force worldwide.

A positive vote had been widely forecast after the Cabinet endorsed the treaty Sept. 30, but European governments and environmental groups, who have lobbied hard for Russia to ratify, hailed the move as a key victory in the global battle against climate change.

Without Russia's support Kyoto would have been scrapped, and Russia's ratification will make the treaty binding.

"We have opened the Russian champagne bottles," said European Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom. "It brings Russia a lot closer to Europe, I would say."

The treaty must still be approved by the Federation Council and signed by President Vladimir Putin, although these steps are seen as formalities. The Federation Council is to consider the bill on Wednesday.

The Kyoto Protocol calls on industrialized countries to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, thought to be the cause of global warming, to previously agreed target levels by 2012.

Russia's target is equivalent to its 1990 emissions levels. Thanks to the collapse of Soviet-era heavy industry following the breakup of the Soviet Union, the country now produces about 30 percent less than that amount.

The Kyoto Protocol was rammed through the Duma on Friday by United Russia, although deputies from the Liberal Democratic Party, the Communist Party and Rodina lashed out against it.

The treaty "is not in the interests of the Russian Federation," said Pyotr Romanov, a Communist deputy. Limiting Russia's greenhouse gas emissions will limit economic growth and make meeting Putin's goal of doubling GDP within 10 years impossible, he said, according to Interfax. The same arguments were put forward by Putin's economic adviser, Andrei Illarionov, one of the main opponents of Kyoto.

Kyoto's supporters argue that the treaty will bring Russia economic rewards since it will allow Russia to sell any unused emissions quotas to countries that do not meet their reduction targets.

But Alexei Ostrovsky, a deputy from the LDPR, said that even if Russia has extra quotas, it probably will not be able to turn them into profit. The country could theoretically make $15 billion to $20 billion from quota sales, "but no one says they will buy these quotas from us," he said, according to Interfax.

European leaders insist there will be a market for Russia's extra quotas.

United Russia's Anatoly Aksakov, deputy chairman of the Credit Organizations and Financial Markets Committee, said Russia could gain $20 billion to $40 billion in environment-friendly investments under the terms of the treaty.

Kyoto supporters have long argued that Russia could earn billions from so-called "joint-implementation projects," in which a foreign investor pays to reduce emissions in Russia but counts the emissions reductions for his own country or company.

"Ratification of the Kyoto Protocol will have no effect on the doubling of GDP and will not become a barrier to economic growth," Aksakov said.

The motion passed with 334 votes for, 73 against and two abstentions.

Putin spoke out in favor of the Kyoto Protocol after the European Union backed Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organization this spring, prompting widespread speculation that the two issues were unofficially linked.

Environmentalists celebrated the Duma's vote, but many of Kyoto's supporters say its real significance lies in establishing a framework for further international efforts to fight climate change.

"We'll toast the Duma with vodka tonight," said Greenpeace climate policy adviser Steve Sawyer in a statement on Friday. "But on Monday morning we need to roll up our sleeves and get down to the real work. We must build on the Kyoto Protocol, and seek agreement for the much deeper emissions reductions required to put us on a path toward a real solution to the threat of dangerous climate change."

The Kyoto Protocol was originally designed to reduce greenhouse emissions by a total of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels among industrialized countries. But since the United States has backed out of the treaty, many experts say that even if all countries meet their targets, total emissions will be reduced by even less.

"The Kyoto Protocol may not be perfect but it is the only effective tool that is available to the international community," said Romano Prodi, then-president of the European Commission, in a statement.

Kyoto's supporters called on the United States to move forward on climate change.

The Duma's vote "is a major defeat for President Bush and his paymasters in the fossil fuel industry," Sawyer said.

"Latest scientific evidence suggests that global climate change may be happening more rapidly than has been previously known," Prodi said. "The United States should not abstain from the one fight that is crucial for the future of mankind."

A spokesman for the U.S. State Department said Friday that the United States will not change its position on ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, according to Agence France Presse.

U.S. President George W. Bush has argued that the treaty will hurt the U.S. economy. His opponent in the Nov. 2 election, Senator John Kerry, has criticized Bush for backing out of Kyoto, but now says it is too late for the United States to reverse course and support the treaty. Kerry joined in a 95-to-0 Senate vote in 1997 for a measure that said the United States should not ratify Kyoto without significant changes to the treaty.

Once Putin signs off on Kyoto and Russia's documents are delivered to the United Nations, the treaty will go into effect within 90 days.