Over the weekend of March 20th to 22nd, 157 participants from 67 Russian environmental organisations gathered in Moscow to discuss common challenges and opportunities. The participants came from the entire country, from Vladivostok to Murmansk.
It was the first time that a Russian environmental conference was able to gather so many participants. Bellona’s St. Petersburg office – the Environmental Rights Centre Bellona (ERC) – was one of the organisers of the conference.
Bellona organised its own seminar for Russian environmental lawyers during the first day of the conference.
“We are very pleased that so many people came this weekend, and that we succeeded in coming to an agreement on 43 concrete resolutions that we can work further with,” said Nikitin, Chairman of ERC Bellona’s board.
The 43 resolutions address a wide range of issues from protection of forests, water and animals to energy policy and education on environmental issues.
Among the climate demands that the Russian environmentalists agreed on are the following:
– Russia must reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses by 25 percent in relation to the level in1990, by 2020
– 20 percent of the energy used in 2020 must be renewable energy
– Russia must cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is the one responsible for energy and climate related issues in Russia, and is thereby the one being challenged by the environmentalist’s demands.
Lack of climate strategy
Quite a few inhabitants of Russia are sceptical to the message of climate researchers, and some inhabitants – as well as some people in power – believe that a warmer climate will be good for Russia. This weekend’s environmental conference gave Russian environmentalists an opportunity to discuss climate challenges properly for the first time. According to Nikitin the role of authorities in the fight against climate change was an important topic: “Today the situation is such that if you ring Russian authorities to inquire about the country’s climate strategy, the only reply is that ‘no, I don’t know anything, it is not my responsibility.’ The government hardly has any official climate strategy, and little progress is occurring,” said Nikitin. “Therefore, one of the resolutions from the conference recommends establishment of a governmental group which can work toward creation of an ambitious national climate strategy,” he said.
Tremendous potential for energy saving Lund pointed out that Russia has a great potential for energy effectiveness. “It is interesting that Russia has a great potential for energy savings, perhaps the greatest in the world,” said Lund. The Russians have tremendous energy resources, and so far they haven’t had any great need to develop a consciousness related to the use of energy. But there are huge possibilities for saving money by saving energy in Russia.” During the environmental conference in Moscow, the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF’s) Russian representative, among others, pointed out that it would be relatively easy for Russia to reduce CO2 emissions by 25 percent. Many participants called for a specific law on energy effectiveness. Today, no incentives exist to use energy smartly, or to use less energy. Moreover, there aren’t any mechanisms, which force companies to stop wasting energy.
Nuclear power not a solution During the conference there was very little debate about one of the most important environmental issues in Russia – the problems related to nuclear power and radioactive waste. The reason is a strong opposition to nuclear power shared by everyone. However, there was discussion about how Russia’s state-owned nuclear corporation Rosatom has been very active in its work to sell nuclear energy as a climate solution. Rosatom is now using climate change as its most important argument for producing nuclear energy. “Everyone at the conference agreed that nuclear power cannot be a solution to the global climate challenges. Nuclear energy causes many serious problems and therefore should not be considered an alternative to oil or coal” said Nikitin.