The Russian cabinet's endorsement of the Kyoto Protocol on global warming [front page, Oct. 1] confirms that Kyoto is an economic treaty, not an environmental treaty.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's position regarding Kyoto has always carried a whiff of horse-trading. Ignoring the considerable opposition of his own economic adviser and most Russian scientists, Mr. Putin pressured his cabinet to endorse the treaty after the European Union endorsed Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organization.

If Russia does ratify the protocol -- and it still requires approval of the Duma -- it will be gambling that joining the WTO and getting some European development dollars will outweigh the protocol's drag on its economy.

The Kyoto Protocol is raw political calculus: In a carbon-constrained world, the United States, with an economy structured on inexpensive, abundant energy, becomes less competitive. That's what Europe wants and what this is really all about.

Regardless of Russia's final decision, the treaty will do nothing to prevent global warming. If every signatory nation -- including the United States -- met its commitment under the agreement, the temperature would be only a half-degree Fahrenheit cooler than it would be otherwise. Indeed, by instituting energy rationing, Kyoto will leave the world a poorer place, with less resilience to face climate challenges.


National Center for Policy Analysis