Russian government introduces plan to enforce presidential climate doctrine

ingressimage_800px-Moscow_Kremlin_from_the_river-1..jpg Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Russian daily Kommersant points out, however in its May 4 story that despite the current lack of funds pledged to this initiative, experts and environmentalists see the endeavour as a sign that the Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin, has finally embraced the concept of anthropogenic climate change.

The document, entitled “Comprehensive Plan of Implementing the Russian Federation’s Climate Doctrine for the Period until 2020” (in Russian), was introduced by a government decree of April 25, 2011. Almost a year and a half had passed since December 2009, when the Russian government adopted the climate doctrine for which this plan is setting out implementation stages. The plan consists of 31 items and, according to Alexei Kokorin, who is the head of WWF Russia’s climate programme, had been in the works for one year and passing through various stages of approval for another six months, Kommersant said.

“There was immense resistance [within the government] even to this [adopted] version,” Yevgeny Shvarts, also from WWF, told the paper. “The government was deciding how well this was going to agree with the current industrial policy.”

The plan suggests that between 2011 and 2020, the Ministry of Economic Development will be introducing changes into Russia’s long-term macroeconomic forecasts “taking into account climate risks, mitigation of anthropogenic impacts on the climate, and adaptation to climate change,” Kommersant reported, citing the document.

Already this year, the Ministry of Natural Resources, which is responsible for the implementation of the action plan, is to prepare “guidelines for the development of branch-specific methodologies of estimation and assessment” of particular consequences of climate change, in order to prepare regional and territorial adaptation plans for different industries and ministries, Kommersant said.

The paper reports that the same task is set for the Ministry of Health with regard to “infectious and parasitic diseases;” the Federal Forestry Agency with respect to Russia’s forests and peat bogs (Russia suffered greatly from an eruption of forest and peat fires last summer that suffocated the Russian capital, Moscow, with smoke and also raged across several regions; this natural disaster was acknowledged by President Medvedev to be a consequence of climate change and is feared to repeat this summer); the Ministry of Regional Development, regarding infrastructure, “due to the northbound shift of the southern boundary of the area of permafrost”; the Ministry of Agriculture, regarding harvest forecasts; and the Russian Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring, regarding precipitation and ocean level forecasts, respectively.

The so-called “immediate action measures” are spread across the span of 2011 to 2020. These include measures to be taken in the transport industry – which implies increasing production of hybrid cars and a set of measures to put to use alternative gas- and hydrogen-based fuels – and energy efficiency measures. There is even a task for the construction industry to prepare pilot projects for so-called “passive houses” in 2012, Kommersant said.

“Passive houses” are a concept that implies a construction standard where buildings are characterised by very low to zero energy consumption, high energy conservation, and a reduced ecological footprint overall. Special ecologically friendly building materials ensure as little environmental harm as possible during construction, use, or eventual demolition.

Kommersant notes especially the item proposing “development and introduction of economic mechanisms to curb greenhouse gas emissions in the industry.” The paper suggests that implied here may be an internal emissions trade system where greenhouse gas quotas could be traded on the domestic market. The responsibility for developing this scheme is placed on the Ministry of Economic Development.

“A carbon dioxide emissions market is a universal and relatively simple way of capitalising on the gains of energy efficiency and energy conservation, as well as stimulating the development of [renewable energy sources],” Anton Galenovich of Ecocom Climate Protection told Kommersant. “International experience shows that the ratio of benefits to costs, when achieving the emission reduction targets through market means, is nearly 40 to 1. Practice shows other ways of cutting down CO2 emissions do not give any results.”  

The Ministry of Transport has been charged with developing measures to cut down CO2 emissions from civil aviation by 2015 and from commercial sea and river transport by 2020, respectively. Both sectors, however, are expected to start buying European emission quotas in the near future, Kommersant said.

At the same time, the Russian daily points out, the new decree does not yet provide for funding or ensuring the needed qualified staff to set the action plan in motion. The paper says, however, that Russian environmentalists and businessmen welcome the government’s decision to make such a move in the first place.

“The fact of Vladimir Putin’s signature gives an opportunity to people who want to do something in their regions to do it unimpeded. I have heard repeated complaints [about how] the climate doctrine was signed by President [Dmitry Medvedev], while the prime minister does not believe in climate change […],” WWF’s Kokorin told Kommersant, citing examples where the perceived lack of accord within the country’s ruling duo on the climate change issue gave conflicting signals to Russian citizens. “This paper will now become the main counterargument to [climate change] sceptics.”

Maria Kaminskaya