Unyielding Russian politics could have dire consequences for the climate

Nils Bøhmer/Bellona

Publish date: April 20, 2010

Written by: Ruth Astrid Saeter

Translated by: Charles Digges

ST. PETERSBURG – Climate change will have major consequences in Russia, and it is the Russian authorities that need to prepare for it as soon as possible, but the government didn’t bother to send a single representative to a renewable energy forum arranged by Bellona in St. Petersburg, said Kristin Vibeke Jørgensen, head of Bellona’s Russia department.

Bellona’s office in St. Petersburg last week hosted for the first time a forum for renewable energy in Russia’s second city of five million resident. Scientists, industry, investors, government authorities and civil society organizations were invited  – and around 160 participants came and followed the two day-long forum, which was comprised of some 60 speeches and debates.

No officials

Many of the participants said they had been satisfied with the forum – but no official representatives of the Russian government showed up.

“Was this forum really so uninteresting to Russia authorities – is that why they didn’t show up?” said Jørgensen.

“Russia’s political leadership get on board and prioritise measures to combat climate change,” she said.

The no-shows from Russia’s brass were a surprising omission given Russian President Dmitry Medevedev’s promises at the December UN climate talks in Copenhagen to join the world community in helping reduce emissions and Russia’s pledge of $200 million to poorer nations to help them deal with climate change.  

Low percentage goal

Medvedev also said recently that it was Russia’s goal for 4.5 percent o the country’s energy to be produced by renewables. Current energy production from renewables is less than one percent.

Boosting this proportion in a country with such vast, untapped potential for wind energy is entirely possible.

“The target of 4.5 percent is ridiculously low,” said Jørgensen. “But it is certainly a beginning, and we see that representatives of industry, research and environmental organisations take it seriously – they are trying to do something,” she said.

Bellona aims to create a dialogue

Bellona can play an important role in shaping a dialogue about renewable energy in Russia.

“We go in and create a platform, a forum for discussion, where we invite all the different players to come together and discuss various issues, expand their networks, cultivate new ideas and create fertile ground for change and development,” said Jørgensen.

“It is perhaps the most important work Bellona does in Russia – a sort of adult education in the practical development of democracy,” she said.

Last week’s energy forum was a first for Bellona’s St. Petersburg offices, where its Murmansk offices held three similar forums, the  last of which took place last autumn. From here, Jørgensen and Bellona will focus on making the energy forum an annual event to rotate between Murmansk and St. Petersburg every other year.

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