August 14, 2005

Why Belarus joins Kyoto Protocol now?

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko declared on Saturday to approve the country's accessionto the Kyoto Protocol, half a year after the treaty came into effect on Feb. 16.

There are four discernable considerations behind Belarus' timing of its entry into the international environmental protection agreement aimed at slowing down global warming.

Since the former Soviet Union was disintegrated in 1991, the Belarussian economy has stagnated. The country's carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions are now only 50 percent of those in 1990.

According to the protocol, an undeveloped country whose greenhouse emissions are less than those in 1990 can maintain the 1990 emission level from 2008 to 2012 and sell the additional quotas to other protocol members.

Therefore, by joining the treaty, Belarus can sell 60 million tons of greenhouse gas quotas, getting an income between 325 million and 1.75 billion US dollars a year.

Belarus can use the money to modernize its technology and promote the country's economic development.

Another reason why Belarus decided to sign the treaty at this moment is that it hopes to sell its extra emission quotas at a better price.

Before the protocol went into effect on Feb. 16, Belarus had finished preparing all related documents on entering the treaty. However, some countries argued that Belarus should sell its greenhouse gas quotas at a lower price because it cost elarus much less to reduce emissions than other countries.

The Belarussion authorities disagreed, and delayed its entry to bargain over the prices.

Thirdly, Saturday was only two days away from the deadline set by the protocol for countries to join the treaty and reap the benefits to sell their extra greenhouse gas quotas to other countries.

The Kyoto Protocol stipulates that all countries newly joining the treaty within 180 days after it became effective, i.e., before Aug. 15, are entitled to selling extra emission quotas to other countries. Non-signatory countries have nowhere to sell their extra quotas. Belarus signed the treaty in time to enjoy the benefit.

Finally, Belarus' decision was also out of certain political concerns.

Analysts said that the former Soviet republic has been under pressure from western countries over human rights issues in recent years.

To join an international environmental treaty approved by over 120 countries helps Belarus to improve its national reputation and further integrate itself into Europe and the international community.