Is the new ‘climate doctrine’ marking a turning point in Russian policy?

Friday, 24. April 2009     0 comment(s)
Anna Korppoo
Researcher - The EU's Eastern Neighbourhood and Russia research programme
Yesterday the Russian Cabinet discussed and approved a draft ’climate doctrine’ for Russia. The Minister of Natural Resources Yuri Trutnev, who presented the document to the Cabinet, argued that implementing climate policies based on efficiency improvements would be good for the Russian economy, rather than an additional cost. According to the doctrine, the potential impact of unchecked climate change to the Russian economy could be a reduction of the GDP by 2-5%. By 2050, the annual costs could rise to 60 Bln RUR. However, benefits stemming from climate change are also recognized.

Based on the Cabinet discussion, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called for a concrete domestic climate action plan focusing on the improvements of resource and energy efficiencies. He also emphasized the importance of international cooperation to solve the problem, stating that Russia will take a responsible approach to its domestic policies and measures.

This high-level commitment to establishing a concrete domestic action plan on climate is an extremely positive development, and ends the long silence on this important issue in the high-level politics of Russia. These statements could also mark a more active domestic debate on the post-2012 position of Russia. The economic figures included in the ‘climate doctrine’ could even play a somewhat similar role in Russia to that of the Stern report in the UK. However, the general awareness of the issue and an active civil society required for such debate are weak in Russia, if not completely lacking.

The fact that the Minister of Natural Resources publicly states mitigation policies to have a positive rather than a negative impact on the Russian economy may mark a turning point in the Russian climate policy. Previously, emission reduction commitments have often been considered as a potential hazard to strong economic growth which is the main political priority of the Russian administration. However, it remains to be seen whether the more traditional counter arguments on emission reduction commitments limiting economic growth will be restated in the near future.

It is also a significant development that the high costs of climate change to the economy are first time widely used in Russian headlines rather than focusing on the benefits expected.

But in the past many good initiatives have got caught in the heavy Russian bureaucracy and been deterred by the lack of attention at the highest political level. In this rare case, with the issue having gained the attention of Prime Minister Putin, it would support the Russian debate if other G8 countries, especially the US, as well as the international media, recognized these positive signs from Russia.

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