December 12, 2008 / 4:00 PM / 12 years ago

Russia may not join global deal on climate change

POZNAN, Poland (Reuters) - Russia may not join a new global deal to fight climate change if it is against Moscow’s interests and will set a national mid-term target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions next year, an official said on Friday.

“If the conditions for the international agreement are not favorable for us we may not join such an agreement,” Alexander Pankin, deputy head of the Russian delegation at U.N.-led December 1-12 climate negotiations in Poland, told Reuters.

If a new U.N. climate pact meant to be agreed in Copenhagen at end-2009 was unfair and failed to set comparable commitments for countries according to their economic and social standing, Russia would not sign, he said.

“If you are better off than me, why should I make a stronger commitment than you,” he said.

Pankin said Russia’s ambition was to stabilize emissions at around 30 percent below 1990 and then reduce them further but did not give a percentage about possible cuts by 2020.

“We will have our national commitment. We will see what is achievable for Russia, we will do it at a government level and we will say this is the Russian target,” he said.

“Definitely we have to do it within the next year.”

Russia would set its own “achievable and realistic” target and would not tolerate pressure from the European Union or others for emission cuts of 20 or 30 percent by 2020. The EU leaders approved on Friday a 20-percent target by 2020.

“We take our national actions not because there’s international pressure on us, we take action because we want to live in a cleaner world,” Pankin said.

Russia, the world’s number three greenhouse gas emitter behind China and the United States, ratified the current U.N. Kyoto Protocol in 2004 only after years of debate about whether to take on targets for greenhouse gas emissions.

Fears of global recession have now made many rich nations reluctant to launch costly new projects to fight climate change, or push ahead with ever deeper greenhouse gas cuts.

Pankin said talking about a collective mid-term global target for curbing emissions was not realistic because many countries were not ready to commit to combating climate change with concrete actions.

Emissions in the oil and gas-rich Russia, mainly from burning fossil fuels, have plunged by about a third since the collapse of Soviet-era smokestack industries. Its goal under Kyoto is to keep emissions below 1990 levels until 2012.

Moscow has previously feared its emissions may surpass 1990 levels in coming years because of strong economic growth. But the financial crisis has hit growth and Pankin said emissions would likely fall due to declining demand for commodities.

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