Comment: President Medvedev, paging though yesterday’s news, tells sailors that climate change can be hazardous to your health

Publish date: November 18, 2009

ST. PETERSBURG – Russian President Dmirty Medvedeve said last week at the end of the APEC summit in Singapore that in order to prevent climactic catastrophe action must be taken and money earmarked – yet Medvedev had nothing to say about when and what specifically should be done.

In a November 12th letter to the Federation Council, the Russian Parliament’s upper chamber, Medvedev in a surprising fashion forgot to say at least something about Russia’s participation in efforts to save the world’s climate. This is especially strange as the letter was publicised less than a month prior to the beginning of momentous UN Copenhagen climate conference, which begins December 9th.

As if correcting the mistake, Medvedev during a November 16th get together with the sailors aboard the Varyag Russian destroyer, Medevedev again made mention of the climate topic. Answering a question from a petty officer named Ivanov about what issues were discussed at the APEC summit, and what Russia would gain from it, Medvedev announced:

“Specifically our proceedings were dedicated to issues of climate change and to who should do what in this situation, because climate change has, according to experts, acquired a very serious nature.”

“It is necessary,” continued Medvedev in the official transcript available on the President’s website in Russian here, “to make a decision in order to earmark funding for reducing so-called releases, emissions of greenhouse gasses, that is CO2, into the atmosphere. And if we don’t do this jointly, then, in the final analysis, the consequences for our planet could be very unpleasant and simply deplorable, right up to a point that could end up with the melting of Arctic and Antarctic ice, changes in the level of world oceans, this could have catastrophic consequences both for the atmosphere of the planet and for its terrestrial areas.”

Has anyone told the Russian president about global climate change?
We can only be happy that someone told Mr. Medvedev that the climate is changing,  that climate change could lead to catastrophe for the entire planet and for our country; that to prevent catastrophe it is requisite to lower emissions of greenhouse gases and that in order to do this money will be required. Maybe he was imparted this knowledge by US President Barack Obama, who is trying to become the “climate leader.” It could be Medvedev passed a “climate illiteracy campaign” at the APEC summit itself. Whatever the case, there is a marked improvement in the official rhetoric on climate issues, and this cannot but be encouraging.  

It bears recalling that in April Medvedev was able only to say of climate changed that it was “a subject that is far from simple.”  And in July he flabbergasted everyone by saying that the emissions of these very same greenhouse gasses will increase by 25 to 30 percent by 2020 relative to their current levels. Then, in October, Russia’s Kremlin controlled ORT  Channel One showed a “documentary” about how human-generated climate change does not exist. All of this pointed to the opinion that in issues of climate politics we are again rolling back the clock to times when it was considered good tone, in lockstep with the odious presidential advisor Andrei Illarionov, to say that there is no climate change that has been called forth by the actions of humanity, and all conversations about global climate change were intrigues concocted by the enemies of Russia.

Forward, Russia (?)
Therefore it is very well and correct that Prsient Medvedev admitted that climate change is the result of human activity, that it might have catastrophic results, and that in order to avert catastrophe a “decision must be made.” But it is exactly that he did not say what specific decisions need to be made, and did not specify what precisely Russia is intending to do.

Russia could after all seriously engage in saving the climate and do, for instance, the following:

– demand the adoption of a legally binding agreement at Copenhagen, and refuse to suppoer the dubious idea of the adoption there only of a political declaration;

– proclaim the goal of holding emissions to their current levels until 2020, with the perspective of cutting them, instead of Medvedev’s strange goal of increasing them;

– establish a more important goal of reaching a renewable energy reliance in Russia by 2020 of not, for example, 4.5 percent, but rather 10 percent.

And most importantly, a clear and understandable programme of action for reducing greenhouse gas emissions must be adopted by increased use of hydo-electric plants in Russia’s energy mix as well as increased energy efficiency of the economy.

Andrei Ozharovsky, a physicist with the group Ecodefence, is a frequent contributor to Bellona Web.

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