Bellona side event lays out priorities for Russia’s delegation to Copenhagen

Still from COP15 web simulcast

Publish date: December 7, 2009

Written by: Charles Digges

In a three way television bridge at the Copenhagen summit on climate change arranged by Bellona , the group and other non-governmental organisations(NGOs) hammered out what Russia’s apparent position will be in the coming days of negotiations, and what role NGOs will play in that decision making process.

One of the biggest difficulties that will have to be faced is the disconnect between the Russia government and the Russian delegation to Copenhagen, and trying to determine what Moscow’s intentions are when the Kremlin seems so far from the process at hand.

Alexei Kokorin of the World Wildlife Federation Russia rattled off his interpretation of what Russia hopes to achieve from the talks in three bullet points that included: Russia will not sign any agreements unless the United States and China do the same; That Russia is against viewing the summit as way to prolong the Kyoto Protocol, and should instead aim for a completely new agreement, and that Russia is happy to contribute funds to help poorer nations that are struggling with climate change – on the condition that everyone at Copenhagen, but the most in need, contributes as well.

Joining Kokorin in on the panel were Vladimir Slivyak, co-chair of Russia’s Ecodefence, and Nina Lesikhina, energy projects coordinator for Bellona-Murmank, who arranged for the side event – one of 64 Bellona will be hosting.

The panel was jointed by television with Bellona’s  Murmansk and St. Petersburg offices, and the discussion was moderated by Angelina Davydova of the Russian German exchange.

All of the panellists agreed that, in order to make the Russian delegation’s position a reality, Russia must sign its own climate doctrine.

“We demand a signature on the climate doctrine,” said Kokorin, “It appeared on the Ministry of Natural Resources site on May 28, it’s a fairly well known document. But even if its not signed, the its unclear what it is.”

The Copenhagen talks are aimed at reaching a replacement agreement for the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. But those who spoke at Bellona’s side event today said the talks should not be aimed at simply extending Kyoto.

Kyoto, Kokorin said, was already in progress and Russia was positioned to meet its targets. As announced by President Dmitry Medvedev in Stockholm late last month, Moscow would table a 20-25 percent emissions cut below 1990 levels – well within the range envisioned by Kyoto. Currently, Russia is posting figures of 34 to 40 percent over the Kyoto cuts it agreed to in 2004.

“The process will be successful (for Russia), that is already apparent,” he said. “So we should celebrate and forget it.”

Of what the Russian delegation wishes to advance, Kokorin said that it hits all the major points the WWF would like addressed, but noted that there was apparently no real official backing of the agenda from Moscow. “The delegation doesn’t have any real support” from Moscow, he said.

As an example, he said he had read in Russia’s daily Vedomosti that Russia had decided to give up its Kyoto carbon credits – equivalent to 300 billion tons of emission – to the rest of the world instead of trying to sell them, something that only a week ago was expected to be one of Russia most contentious demands at the summit. Kokorin said he had wished he had heard the news from a more authoritative source.

“I haven’t heard anything about the government approving any kind of position for Russia,” he said. “The real anxiety (for participants in the talks) is that the position of the delegation doesn’t have any official status, he said.

According to Bellona-Murmansk’s Leskhina, Russia doesn’t need to insist on rolling over its carbon credits for coming in under Kyoto quotas into a new agreement. She said Russia should refuse its individual allowances, which will give it the possibility of raising the bar for emissions cuts everywhere without hobbling economics.

Sivyak agreed that Russia has “no harmonised approach” to dealing with climate change, saying that any decisions about it are far from being reached in order to make the summit successful for Russia.

“There is no climate policy in Russia, as such,” said Slivyak. “But there should be.”

Kokorin noted that a previous bid made by Medvedev in June suggested 10 to 15 percent cuts below 1990, which was bellowed off the stage by Russian environmentalists and the international community.

“I agree with Kokorin that the announced 25 percent reducton is better than 15 percent,” said Slivyak, but he continued to say that in the context of the summit that it was too little.

“Russian NGOs would like to see a 35 to 40 percent cut in emissions over 1990 levels before 2020,” said Slivyak “It is an attempt to stay in the same position we are in now and it is something that is achievable without any special efforts or banging our heads against the wall.”

Lesikhina told the audience that environmentalists consider it a must that plans not only be made for cutting emissions 35-40 by 2020, but to work out the mechanisms to sustain and amplify those cuts so they reach 85 percent by 2050.

Slivyak had already noticed only hours in the negotiations that corporate, especially nuclear industry, interests formed much of the negotiating thrust of several countries, most notably France, one of whose negotiators works with French atomic giant Areva.

Areva, said Slivyak, would like to propose a €6 billion fund to build nuclear reactors in Africa. Ecodefence and Bellona are vociferously against nuclear power as a climate change combating tool because, as no country on earth can safely store nuclear waste for more than 60 years, pouring money into the expensive plants that take 10 or more years to build will only compact run-away climate change with piled up spent nuclear fuel.

It will be the job of NGOs present in Copenhagen to call attention to hat kind of one sides reasoning that brings huge profits to particular nations while ignoring the common weal.