Fri, Jul 02, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Dutch minister confident Russia will sign Kyoto accord

REUTERS , MAARSSEN, NETHERLANDS

The Netherlands, which assumed the EU presidency yesterday, believes Russia will sign the Kyoto protocol on climate change because it wants to be part of the European community.

Dutch Environment Minister Pieter van Geel told reporters in an interview late Wednesday that he would work hard at getting Russian President Vladimir Putin to commit to the 1997 UN pact aimed at curbing global warming.

"It's very difficult to look into the Russian soul ... but I'm confident because I think that Russia wants to be a member, not of the EU, that's another distinction, but wants to be part of the European community," Van Geel said.

Kyoto cannot come into force unless it is ratified by countries responsible for 55 percent of rich nations' "greenhouse gas" emissions. It has reached 44 percent and hinges on securing Russia's 17 percent after the US, considered the world's biggest polluter, pulled out in 2001.

Putin said in May that Moscow would move to ratify the pact after an agreement with the EU on entry to the World Trade Organization.

"I think that in the end Russia will ratify [the protocol] because they know Europe thinks Kyoto is important and they want to do business with Europe. I think they are more orientated on Europe than on the United States," van Geel said.

"In the end they will choose [the protocol] but I hope that it won't take too long because it is very important that they ratify or otherwise we lose the momentum," he said.

The head of the UN Environment Program, Klaus Toepfer, said last month that he expected Russia to ratify by the next meeting of Kyoto signatories, scheduled for December in Buenos Aires.

Carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels in cars and factories is the main greenhouse gas.

Scientists say these gases are blanketing the planet and nudging up temperatures, bringing more floods, tornadoes and raising world sea levels.

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