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Europe

European Press Review: Putin's U-Turn

European editorials on Friday looked at the decision by Russian President Vladimir Putin to approve the Kyoto climate change treaty.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has saved the climate change protocol and has become the hero for environmentalists around the world, said the Luxemburger Wort. The fact that it took him seven years to do it can be forgiven, it added and speculated why he went for it in the end. It noted that the treaty is widely disputed inside the country because it curbs Russia's industrial growth. So it must have to do with reasons outside the country, the paper concluded.

Adding to that last point, Corriere della Sera in Milan said Putin's backing of Kyoto is the result of long negotiations with the European Commission. Russia wants to become a member of the World Trade Organization and the paper said Brussels has always indicated it would block Moscow's entry. But now, the daily added, the door to the WTO seems to be wide open for Russia.

Germany's Financial Times Deutschland was a bit more sceptical saying the motives for supporting the treaty are as opaque as the polluted air over Moscow. The paper thought Putin wants to counter the international indignation over what the daily calls his increasingly undemocratic political moves. It observed that Putin's surprise turnaround means the international treaty can come into effect because countries collectively responsible for producing 55 percent of global carbon dioxide will have ratified it. On a closing note, the paper remarked that the United States has lost a valuable partner in the axis against the Kyoto treaty.

It's not just George W. Bush who opposes the Kyoto Treaty, stated Les Echos in Paris, but his democratic challenger for the White House John Kerry won't sign it either in its present form. It added that Moscow hasn't only saved the day, it's now opened up a new market in which Russian companies can sell carbon credits to Europeans.

The Russian cabinet's decision to ratify the Kyoto protocol is enormously welcome, said Britain's Independent. But it warned that it will not prevent climate change. Russia's signature will be essential for the treaty to come into force after the United States, the world biggest greenhouse gas emitter, said it wouldn't back it. The paper believed the collapse of Kyoto would have severely damaged confidence in the ability of the international community to find a multilateral response to climate change. The treaty binds countries to cut their greenhouse gasses, but what it doesn't do is solve the problem, said the daily. Even if the terms of the treaty were fulfilled as originally envisaged, with full US participation, the results would be only a tiny beginning, but a beginning that should be 100 percent welcome, the paper concluded.

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