New IIASA research challenges Kyoto Protocol

September 15, 2000 - LAXENBURG, Austria - IIASA recently released its latest research study, Full Carbon Account for Russia, which shows serious flaws in the Kyoto Protocol, a strategy adopted at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992 as the way to control greenhouse gases and curb global warming. The Kyoto Protocol calls for significant reductions - 225 million tons from the 1990 level between the years 2008 and 2012 - in greenhouse gases that are caused in large part by the use of fossil fuels and destruction of vegetation. Since reductions of this magnitude will be difficult to achieve, the Kyoto Protocol offers alternatives to the 39 countries joining the treaty: reduce your nation's "smokestack emissions" of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, plant more forests, and/or improve other "biological sinks" that naturally extract carbon from the atmosphere.

However, IIASA's research, which uses Russia as a case study, shows that benefits of the biological sinks cannot be accurately measured. Without credible "full carbon accounting" (FCA), countries that elect to balance their CO2 emissions by planting more forests or changing land use rather than by reducing their emissions may actually be able to increase their net release of harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Thus, even countries signing the Kyoto Protocol, anticipated to be finalized and ratified in the Hague this November, can pump even more carbon into the air, worsening the serious environmental crisis that the much-lauded Kyoto Protocol was designed to improve. Due to the uncertainties involved, the 39 countries joining the treaty will not be able to verify their agreed Kyoto targets currently.

IIASA's Forestry Project team, led by Prof. Sten Nilsson, selected Russia for detailed study of carbon accounting because Russia is responsible for 15% of the global net releases of carbon into the atmosphere, and Russian forests comprise approximately 20% of the world's

Contact: Karen Gerwitz, Media Officer
International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis

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