Excess of greenhouse gas emissions permits for Russia can become a trick for rich countries

Olga Podosenova

Emission permits issued by the UN for Russia to boost measures on limitation of climate change can become an occasion for rich countries to abandon considerable reduction in their own emissions. Representatives of non-governmental organizations display negative attitude to such developments, as Russia is one of the largest CO2 emitters, and it imposes a special responsibility in the climate process on our country.

UN rules could allow U.S., EU and other members of the so-called group of rich countries in Annex 1 to the Kyoto Protocol to meet its obligations to reduce emissions of the past year by purchasing surplus permits from previous years. For each of the states in Annex 1, defined are assigned amount units (AAUs) that reflect the planned reduction in emissions, and countries with excessive amount of AAUs have the right to sell them to other Member States. Also, Annex 1 countries can acquire quotas for projects from developing countries that do not have emission reduction commitments.

According to Bloomberg, senior researcher at the Stockholm Environment Institute Sirvan Maps argues that Russia and Ukraine "got goals that far exceed the estimated quantities of emissions of these countries as an incentive for accession" to the Kyoto Protocol. "The question is who pays for these excess permits - the countries listed in Annex 1, which issued these permits as a gift, or the atmosphere?"

Among all Annex 1 countries, Russia and Ukraine hold the largest number of surplus AAUs. It happened, because the goal of reducing emissions of these countries were established at the period of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the economic decline that exceeded the actual emissions of follow-up period.

Last year, rich countries' emissions were 19 gigatons. In December last year in Cancun, Annex 1 countries have made commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 3.8 gigatons by 2020. According to Kart, the existing shortcomings in the rules of the UN give them a "green light" for an additional 3.9 gigatons of emissions, therefore the heads of state must reduce emissions by 12 gigatons of predicted normal levels, if they really intend to achieve the goal of slowing global warming by an average of 2 degrees.

Representatives of nongovernmental organizations in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, in their Statement back in 2009 stated that "interstate trading quotas shall be absent in the new agreement, since it does not contribute to real emissions reduction ... and by 2050 all developed countries in general, and Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, in particular, should reduce their emissions by at least 80% of 1990 levels." According to environmental NGOs, only such climate policy can lead to real results in limitation of global greenhouse gas emissions.