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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gref Backs Kyoto but Warns of Hard Work

Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref has officially backed the Kyoto Protocol in a sign Russian approval is moving ever closer, but he says the country has hard work ahead to actually implement it, a government source said Monday.

Gref is now at least the second minister to back the climate change treaty following President Vladimir Putin's demand that officials move to approve the pact, which depends on Russia to come into force.

"Gref has signed a letter to the government, in which it says the Economic Development and Trade Ministry supports the pact as it always has," the source said. "But he also wrote that we need to do a lot of work to make the pact work. These are things that he says must be implemented if we want to do more than just ratify the document."

Under the terms of the treaty, developed nations emitting more than 55 percent of greenhouse gases must ratify the treaty for it to come into force. Since Washington pulled out in 2001, Russia's 17 percent share has left it with the deciding vote. Russia has vacillated on the treaty for years and seemed to be backing away from it earlier this year before Putin committed the country to ratification in May. Despite his backing, documents showed that key government members, including Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov and Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko, doubted it would bring any benefits to Russia.

The Natural Resources Ministry has signed off on the pact, but Khristenko has yet to do so, a spokesman said.

"Khristenko has not signed the letter. It is on his desk and is being discussed. I have no information on whether he objects to it," Industry and Energy Ministry spokesman Stanislav Naumov said.

The pact allows over-polluting nations to buy excess emissions from under-polluters, and provides mechanisms to attract investment to inefficient industries. Since industry was decimated by the Soviet collapse, the country is estimated to be emitting about three-quarters of its quota under the pact, meaning it could sell the surplus.

But Gref's ministry thinks Russia will have to create new regulations to allow it to take advantage of these money-making opportunities.

Putin's top economic adviser kept up his criticism of the protocol, saying Monday that Russia cannot reach Putin's goal of doubling the size of its economy in a decade if it ratifies the climate-change pact, The Associated Press reported, citing Interfax.

Andrei Illarionov told an investment conference that if Russia is to double GDP in 10 years, its carbon dioxide emissions would likely exceed the limits set in the 1997 treaty.