The fate of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol was thrown into jeopardy when Russian President Vladimir Putin failed last month to provide any indication that his country would ratify it.

Yet one Russian expert on climate change has not given up hope, saying he will continue to urge the Russian government to ratify the pact, aimed at curbing global warming.

“Russia blocked the protocol from entering into force and blocked the activities of 118 countries that have ratified it,” remarked Alexey Kokorin, a climate change program coordinator with the environmental group World Wide Fund for Nature.

During an interview with The Japan Times on Monday, Kokorin lamented the fact that Putin had missed a big opportunity to take a leading role on the issue of climate change.

Having previously served as an adviser on climate change to the Russian government, Kokorin was in Japan to deliver lectures on the prospects of the protocol’s ratification by Moscow.

Although Putin was expected to clarify the timetable for the ratification of the protocol in his opening speech at the World Climate Change Conference in Moscow in late September, he reportedly told the conference that “the decision (for the ratification) will be made only after detailed investigation by the government and in full accordance with Russia’s national interest.”

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol compels industrialized nations to cut their greenhouse gas emissions — believed to be the main culprit behind global warming — by an average of 5.2 percent from 1990 levels by 2012.

For the treaty to take effect, it must be ratified by at least 55 signatory countries. Moreover, the nations that endorse the treaty must together have accounted for 55 percent or more of 1990 carbon dioxide emissions by industrial countries.

Though it has been ratified by more than 100 nations, the protocol has yet to take effect as it has failed to surpass the latter 55 percent threshold.

The United States — the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide — decided in 2001 it would not join the protocol.

International attention has thus centered on Russia, whose ratification would have put the treaty into force.

Kokorin believes that Putin’s September statement does not necessarily constitute a retreat, stating that Putin only chose to delay his decision for the following reasons.

“The first is that Putin wanted to show the world that he will not give in to any pressure from the European Union and other countries that ratified it,” he said. At the same time, Putin is trying to maintain good relations with the U.S. and EU by postponing his decision, he added.

Finally, Kokorin said, Putin is eyeing both a parliamentary election slated for December and presidential election slated for March.

“Even though a majority of the people in Russia acknowledge the danger of climate change and support the protocol, it remains a controversial issue, and government officials are widely divided (over whether the country should ratify it),” Kokorin said, citing this as a factor behind Putin’s actions.

Kokorin said the protocol must take effect as soon as possible in order to counter climate change.

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