OSLO Russia's greenhouse gas emissions rose by a tiny 0.3 percent in 2007 to the highest in more than a decade, sharply lagging an oil-backed surge in economic growth, official data showed.
Russia emitted 2.192 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2007, up from 2.185 billion in 2006, according to official Russian figures submitted to the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat in Bonn and dated April 15.
Russia's 2007 emissions were the highest since 1994 but still 33.94 percent below emissions in 1990, the benchmark in the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol for reining in global warming that may bring more floods, droughts, heatwaves and rising seas.
Russia's emissions tumbled in the early 1990s with the collapse of Soviet-era smokestack industries. After a decade of strong economic growth including 8.1 percent in 2007, Russia is facing recession this year as part of the global downturn.
"These are surprisingly good numbers," Arild Moe, an expert on Russia and climate change at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute in Oslo, said of the 2007 emissions data.
Moe said that the figures could challenge a widespread view in Russia that strong economic growth necessarily means a parallel rise in emissions. That belief, he said, has made Russian politicians wary of promising curbs on global warming.
Russia is the world's number three emitter of greenhouse gases, mainly from burning fossil fuels, behind China and the United States.
Nico Bauer, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said that he suspected the rise in 2007 GDP was stoked mostly by high prices for oil and gas exports, rather than rising domestic activity that would spur more emissions.
"I think that if one would correct the prices of exported resources downwards, the Russian GDP figure would not have been that impressive," he said.
He said it was hard to check because Russia's prices for long-term energy export contracts were not publicly available. He said Russia still has huge opportunities for more efficient energy use that would limit emissions.
The 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union led to a fall in emissions that bottomed out at 1.98 billion metric tons in 1998, compared to 1990 emissions of 3.32 billion.
Emissions have since risen by 11 percent, far less than economic growth of an estimated 69 percent between 1998 and 2007, according to World Bank data.
Russia's target under the Kyoto Protocol, which sets curbs on emissions for all industrialized countries except the United States, is to keep emissions below 1990 levels during the 2008-12 period. It can in theory sell any surplus on carbon markets by staying under 1990 levels.
More than 190 nations have agreed to negotiate by the end of 2009 a new U.N. climate pact to succeed Kyoto. Russia, Japan and Ukraine are among developed nations that have so far not laid out domestic goals beyond 2012.
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(Editing by Peter Blackburn)