In 2004, an economic adviser to former Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the U.N.’s Kyoto Protocol for reining in global warming would kill off the world economy like “an international Auschwitz”.

Jewish groups deplored the remarks by Andrei Illarionov (left side of photo, with Putin) as trivialising the Holocaust. And his fears seem far from justified — in 2007, the Russian economy grew by 8.1 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by just 0.3 percent. (For a story, click here).

Putin went on to defy his advice — Moscow ratified the Kyoto pact and Russia’s “Yes” gave Kyoto enough international backing weight to enter into force in 2005, setting caps on greenhouse gas emissions for industrialised nations until 2012. In the United States, former President George W. Bush’s administration did not sign up, describing Kyoto as an “economic straitjacket”.

I went to a 2003 “World Climate Change Conference” in Moscow at which Illarionov also denounced Kyoto (he was a cheerleader against Kyoto, getting more strident each time). He showed graphs projecting that Russia’s emissions would surge in coming years and explained it would be impossible to have strong economic growth and keep emissions down.  

Yet after a decade or stellar economic growth, Russia’s greenhouse gas emissions are just 11 percent up from a low in 1998 and still 33.94 percent below levels in 1990, the year before the collapse of the Soviet Union and its smokestack industries.