one of THE former constituent states of the Soviet Union, the Republic of Belarus gained its independence in 1991. It has a land area of 80,155 sq. mi. (207,600 sq. km.), a population of 9,724,723 (2007 est.), and a population density of 127 people per sq. mi. (49 people per sq. km.). Although 29 percent of the land is arable, and a further 15 percent has been used for meadow or pasture, the nearby Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine has contaminated some of the agricultural land in Belarus.
Suffering heavily from pollution during the Communist period, including the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident, Belarus has managed, since independence, to significantly reduce its per capita carbon dioxide emissions from 92 metric tons per person in 1992 to 7.6 metric tons in the following year, and then to 6.8 metric tons in 1994. Emissions have been between 5.8 and 6.4 metric tons per person since then. Belarus has a lower level of emissions per person than its neighbors, Russia and the Ukraine, largely because of the underdeveloped nature of the Belarus economy. However, there have been significant emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and carbon monoxide.
To reduce its effect on climate change, Belarus has embarked on an ambitious project of electrifying its train network, and investing more in public transport. However, it relies heavily on fossil fuels for the generation of electricity, which provides 99.5 percent of the power for the country, while only 0.08 percent comes from hydropower. With about a third of the country forested, Belarus lessens its effect on global warming, although there is the threat of deforestation with many cities becoming larger, and increasing demand for timber. The Belarus government of Vyachaslau Kebich took part in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change signed in Rio de Janeiro in May 1992, and the government of Syarhey Sidorski accepted the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change on May 26, 2005. It took effect on November 24, 2005.
SEE ALSo: Deforestation; Nuclear Power; Pollution, Land.
BIBLioGRAPHY. "Belarus—Climate and Atmosphere," www. earthtrends.wri.org (cited October 2007); Belarus: Environmentfor People—National Human Development Report '96 (UNDP, 1996).
Robin Corfield Independent Scholar
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