Mr. Bedritsky, what are the most important achievements of Russian climate policy in the global scale in your opinion?
Russia was deeply involved in the development of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto protocol. Moreover, the ratification of the Kyoto protocol by the Russian Federation in 2004 provided its coming into effect in February 2005.
Since 1994, when Russia ratified UNFCCC, the climate change issue has become an integral part of its both internal and external policy.
At that time, the Russian Federation had intensified its efforts to fulfill the obligations under UNFCCC and the Kyoto protocol. During the past 20 years Russia has introduced a wide range of regulatory acts, launched several federal and regional programs and presented sectorial development strategies mainly aimed at increasing energy efficiency. These measures and structural changes in economy resulted in reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in compliance with the obligations under the Kyoto protocol. I would especially like to point out that the President approved Russian Climate Doctrine in 2009.
Russia has successfully fulfilled the obligations during the first period of the Kyoto protocol (2008-2012): our emissions have been reduced by 31% against the 1990 level with GDP growing sustainably. Total emission reduction in energy sector in Russia has reached 5-year emission level of the EU and exceeded 3-year emission level of the USA during the past 20 years.
According to experts, Russia has become a world leader in terms of reducing energy intensity of the national GDP in 1998-2008. This figure has shrunk by 42% with more than 5% annual decline rate.
In 1998-2010 the GDP growth rate reached 86%, while GHG emissions have increased by 12%. In 2000 energy intensity of GDP has seen its most dramatic decrease – 7.5%.
How Russia benefited from the Kyoto protocol? What can you say to those who criticize the results of Joint implementation projects in Russia and Ukraine?
The participation in the Kyoto protocol has facilitated a wide range of initiatives for our economy. Russia introduced the national assessment system of GHG emissions not regulated by the Montreal protocol. New emission reduction indicators are now included in federal and regional sectoral development programs. In the Concept of long-term socio-economic development of the Russian Federation for the period up to the year 2020 approved in 2008 the environmental efficiency of the economy is considered to be a special direction of business activity aimed at fostering innovative development tightly linked to efficient resource use.
There are new organizations specializing in GHG emission assessment of certain enterprises established in the country. The incentive mechanisms of emissions reduction managed by special working groups have been launched. In the beginning of the next year the results of the national «Climate and responsibility 2015» competition will be announced. This competition will highlight best regional activities aimed at GHG emissions reduction.
Russia has also partially participated in the realization of Joint Implementation projects for the utilization of associated gas, capture and incineration of hydrofluorocarbon-23 and sulfur hexafluoride, energy efficiency, energy conservation, renewable energy and biofuels usage. All in all, 108 projects with 311.5 million tons of CO2-eq total carbon potential were approved for the implementation under the Article 6 of the Kyoto Protocol in Russia.
The statements of some western analytics concerning the possible consequences of the Russian activities in the Joint Implementation projects under the Kyoto Protocol that could affect its success and lead to a sharp drop in carbon prices in the European emissions trading system (EU ETS) have nothing to do with reality. After all, Russian projects were selected in the framework of competition and reviewed by the UNFCCC bodies in accordance with the principles confirmed by independent experts. However Russian emission reduction units (ERU) from only 108 projects were admitted to the European Emissions Tading Scheme. And more than 70% of ERUs implemented, including 100% of ERUs implemented in four major projects were purchased by a foreign buyer - Swiss company Vitol - which mainly specializes in oil and other hydrocarbon commodities trading. In addition it should be mantioned that the EU ETS sold emission reductions of the participants from the EU and from more than a thousand clean development projects which involved developing countries.
What measures can Russia take (or has already taken) to minimize the negative consequences of the climate change in vulnerable ecosystems of the Far North and the Arctic region?
The vulnerability of the Arctic region is confirmed by national and international researches that suggest that Arctic is warming up faster than the rest of the world. According to the Roshydromet report, 2014 has been a very warm year for this region (the third since 1936) – the average annual temperature was 2,2оС above the normal. By the end of the year the ice cover of the Arctic Basin was 4% less than normal.
Russian policy in the Arctic includes the complex socio-economic development of the region, improvement of the living standards of indigenous peoples, resource development, environment control and safety, development of international cooperation in the region. All these tasks should be considered in terms of sustainable development.
The sustainable development of the Russian Arctic both at sea and on land means for us, first of all, the minimization of the environment impact during the process of the industrial development of Arctic resources. While carrying out all the activities for the development of the Russian Arctic, we should pay increased attention to the adaptation of the economy and the population to the climate change, preservation of native habitats and traditional lifestyle of indigenous people. The intensive exploitation of natural resources in the northern territories of Russia has significantly reduced the ability to conduct traditional economic activities. The climate change is changing ecosystems, biodiversity in the places of traditional cropping. New types of diseases spread from the south to the north, etc. The result is a significant social impact of the climate change in the Arctic.
Russia is consistently working on minimizing the impact to the environment in the Arctic region. The concept of sustainable development of the indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East is being implemented, the state program "Socio-economic development of the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation up to the year 2020" was approved, the development strategy of the Russian Arctic, which involves solving large-scale tasks such as preservation of unique ecosystems, as well as infrastructure development of Arctic cities, transportation, creation of favorable work and life conditions in severe north climate were also approved.
Taking into consideration the vulnerability of the Arctic and its importance for the future of our Planet, Russia is also interested in the development of international cooperation on all components of sustainable development in the Arctic - social, economic and environmental.
Currently Russia is initiating a large-scale project called "International Polar Partnership Initiative." Its idea is based on the need to develop a coordinated and continuing long-term observations and studies started during the International Polar Year 2007-2008. In 2014, there was the first discussion on the creation of a coordinated research program of Russian polar areas, which can become the basis of Russia's participation in the International Polar initiative.
How do you see the role of Russian NGOs and civil society in terms of tackling climate change?
Russia is a country that possesses the biggest mineral and raw material potential, unique ecosystems, 1/5 of the world forests, significant water resources, rich flora and fauna. Citizens of the Russian Federation are responsible for the resource conservation in the face of current and future generations.
The Russian Federation is working at climate change mitigation, GHG emission reduction and adaptation to the climate change on both federal and regional levels. State programs including the necessary measures are implemented in different sectors of economy such as transport, energetics and in rural area sustainable development programs.
However, the key to success is the support and participation of citizens both on organizational level and in person.
Quite a lot of NGOs specializing in the climate change issue are conducting their activity in Russia. Providing informational and educational materials, promoting «green» lifestyle and initiating environmental projects for all people including students, they play a significant positive role in the development of climate activity in the country. People in our country do realize the importance of the climate change issue. According to the latest survey, 87,1% of respondents consider climate change a global threat. In 2014 this figure reached 83,2%. The consequences of climate change are becoming clear not only to the experts but also to ordinary people. It is increasingly recognized that efficient mineral resources management forms the basis of the country`s sustainable development and has a direct impact on the living standards and health of millions of people. 41,6% of Russian citizens stated that they are ready to take additional actions in order to lower their carbon footprint. However the amount of respondents that are not ready to change anything is the same.
The results of the surveys also show lack of initiatives aimed at addressing global warming in Russia. Therefore the idea of creating «Climate Russia» newsroom is just in time. Evident information on scientific climate data, new clean and energy-efficient technologies and best GHG reduction practices of Russian companies will promote general idea that all together and in person we can achieve a mutual goal – sustainable development of our country and the whole world.