Unlike others, Putin doesn't criticize Trump over decision

By Michael Biesecker Politics Associated Press

(Reuters)

While other world leaders have strongly condemned President Donald Trump's decision to abandon the Paris climate accord, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday he won't judge.

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"Don't worry, be happy!" Putin quipped after being asked for his reaction at an economic forum in St. Petersburg, Russia. He said the climate deal doesn't formally go into effect until 2021, giving nations years to come up with a constructive solution to combating global warming.

For Putin, leader of the world's biggest crude oil producer and fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, there was plenty to cheer in Trump's rejection of the agreement painstakingly negotiated by the Obama administration and signed by 195 countries.

Trump's move drives another wedge between the United States and its traditional European allies, while aligning its stance closer to Russia in boosting fossil fuels while deferring action to curb climate change.

While Putin's government signed the 2015 Paris accord, he has delayed formally ratifying the agreement for at least two more years. Russia's voluntary reduction goals under the deal are among the weakest submitted by any country, potentially allowing it to spew more planet-warming emissions in future years, not less.

Russia pledged to reduce its carbon emissions by at least 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. That gives Putin lots of wiggle room because the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s triggered the collapse of the country's centrally planned economy, greatly reducing carbon emissions in subsequent years.

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Russia also insisted in its Paris submission that it be given the maximum potential credit for carbon adsorbed out of the atmosphere by Siberia's vast undeveloped forests. Under current projections, Russia could step up its carbon emissions and still claim to meet its 2030 goals.

That gives Putin's government little economic incentive to invest in green technologies. There are currently no utility-scale wind turbines or solar farms in Russia, which — like the U.S. — continues to gets most of its electricity from burning fossil fuels.

Vladimir Chuprov, who tracks the Russian energy industry for the environmental group Greenpeace, said hardliners in the Kremlin will be buoyed by Trump's decision. The Russian economy is highly dependent on revenues from oil and gas exports.

"There are no real plans to change the energy balance at all," said Chuprov, who lives in Moscow. "Trump's decision signals business as usual."

While Trump has claimed that evidence of global warming is partly an elaborate hoax, Putin agrees with the overwhelming consensus of scientists that climate change is being driven by man-made carbon emissions.

"Pressure on the ecosystem is increasing, and as a result of human action and as a result of natural processes, these questions require deep study, research and analysis," Putin said Friday. "It is clear that when working out our politics, our inclusive line of action, we must be responsible and effective."

Still, Putin lamented that it was still so chilly and rainy in Russia, joking that future responsibility for the impacts of global warming could be pinned on Trump.

"Now we can blame it all on him and American imperialism," Putin said, laughing. "It's all their fault!"