Friday, January 1, 2021

Moscow Promoting Economic Growth over Environmental Protection, Thus Undermining Both, Russian Analysts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 30 – In its as-yet not fully approved climate doctrine, Russian environmental activists say, the Kremlin is continuing to give priority to economic growth rather than to the defense of the environment, a strategy that will lead to its falling further and further behind the advanced countries and harm the world’s ecological situation.

            Not only are the provisions of the new climate doctrine, which Vladimir Putin only in part confirmed in November, internally inconsistent, but they show that Moscow intends to continue to rely on fossil fuels both domestically and as an export earner rather than shift to renewable energy (россия-новая-климатическая-стратегия-ведет-в-технологический-тупик).

            Russian industrialists believe that this is the only way the country can begin to expand by  the more than anemic numbers it has achieved in recent years, but they do not see that the shift other countries are making toward renewable energy will keep demand for Russian oil and gas low and thus reduce the contribution such sales can make to the economy.

            Moreover, environmental experts argue, Russia’s failure to move in the same direction means not only that Moscow will have ever smaller earnings from hydrocarbon sales but that its industry will increasingly be out of date and thus unable to compete with the economies of other countries.

            Russian officials and businessmen have long been climate change deniers, even though Moscow signed both Kyoto and Paris accords and has proclaimed its support for the goals of protecting the environemnt; and so the fact that Russia now has a strategy document ( and that Putin has approved it in part ( represents progress.

            But Moscow’s strategy document exploits the lack of specificity in the Paris accord about when the middle of the century is and how much Russia must do in order to reduce carbon emissions. Moreover, the Russian government acknowledges that if its strategy is realized, Russia likely will increase not decrease emissions in the coming decades.

            And all of its planned achievements are postponed until after 2020, an indication that it views economic recovery as more important than improving the economy and does not want to pay any political costs for restricting growth now in order to have more growth in the future, Russian analysts say.

            To a large extent, Russia has escaped withering international criticism on climate issues because as a result of economic decline, its emissions of greenhouse gases now are almost 50 percent less than they were in 1990. But it is now clear that Moscow intends to rebuild its economy along existing lines rather than modernize it to protect the environment.

            Given Russia’s economic problems, one can understand why some would be attracted to such an approach, but Mikhail Yulkin, head of KarbonLab, a Russian environmental group, argues that “such ‘pragmatism’ will bury any hopes for the modernization of the economy.” Not only will income from gas and oil sales fall, but Russian industry will remain backward.

            And that means that any short-term recovery that Vladimir Putin may be able to oversee will be followed by larger and longer-term declines in the Russian economy and larger and longer-term harm to its environment and the environment of the world.

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