Monday, October 04, 2004

The EU and the Bear

So, Russia's decided to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions - a move which the entire world should welcome. The UN Climate Change Convention's superbly-named executive secretary, Joke Waller-Hunter, has done, and without that I'd never have heard of him. It's one of the best names ever. Who said that environmentalism couldn't be entertaining?

Weirdly, however, Russia is one of the few countries set to benefit from global warming, as large chunks of currently icy wasteland in the north of the country would be set to become lush and fertile pastureland if current climate changes continue. Of course, it would also probably turn the central steppes into a desert, but still... "Without Russia the 122 countries which have signed up to the pact account for only 44 per cent of total emissions. Russia accounts for 17 per cent of world emissions." Now all we need is for the US - which produces 25 percent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions - to finally come back in on the deal (which isn't going to happen any time soon unless Kerry gets in), and we may not be doomed to a Mad Max-style future of depleted resources and desert living. Hurrah!

However, could Vladimir Putin have ulterior motives? "Some Russia watchers... doubt the President's intentions are heart-felt or yet clear while some even suspect foul play. Putin and Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov were nowhere to be seen at the announcement of the government's decision, having left the job to the deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov. All the most important ministers and the prime minister are predicting a 'battle' to ensue once the Duma takes up the proposal, reflecting the fact that many in Russia's distinctly eco-unfriendly industrial lobby oppose the emissions controls."

All is not rosy in Russia-EU relations: "The relationship between the E.U. and the Russian Federation regularly occupies headlines in the Russian media. Politicians in the Russian Parliament debate the extent of the relationship with the E.U., and many ministers talk of either "joining Europe" or establishing their own sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union, thereby driving towards the still-distant goal of multipolarity... the issue of Chechnya still generates major ripples of discontent between otherwise close partners. The E.U., championing human rights issues, simply cannot let Russia continue what it regards as human rights violations on a consistent basis."

So is there a fight brewing between the EU and Russia?

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