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In 30 years an article of ours might start like this: due to its spectacular and pristine nature and climatic diversity, Russia is a top destination for tourists from near and far. The country’s Far East offers one of the richest ecosystems in the world, supported by the work of the local and indigenous population that live in harmony with nature, as they preserve it. Regions, such as Uljanowsk and Astrakhan have established themselves as hubs for renewable energy, Sakhalin has pioneered C02-trading system that has since been adopted in the whole of Russia and has become one of the Asia’s Hydrogen hubs, the Kuzbass has transformed itself from coal-mining region into a science and green industry region and green hydrogen is running through the pipes of Nord Stream 2 supplying Europe with climate-neutral energy. Russia also exports rare earths, which are indispensable for the construction of wind power plants or electric cars in Europe and anywhere else in the world.
These developments have triggered a wave of economic growth creating new, “green” jobs in science, industry and the service sector. This sustainable growth model has firmly embedded Russia in the decarbonized global economy. The country has become not only a more and more important supplier of sustainable energy, but also of technological solutions and scientific advances. Effects are tangible everywhere and at home: by significantly reducing air and water pollution the green transformation has improved quality of life not only in Moscow but across the country.
Sounds too good to be true? This in fact could be Russia in 30 years! A country that not only understood the challenges of climate change, but also seized the enormous opportunities that came along and took courageous political decisions, together with its partners in Europe and beyond.
This future is already beginning, as the seeds have already been planted, and as Europe and other parts of the world are also in the process of transforming their economies and societies towards a sustainable future. The adoption of the Paris Agreement on 12 December 2015 at COP21 was the culmination of more than 20 years of climate talks. The Agreement sets in stone an ambitious collective goal: keeping the global average temperature rise to well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C. It is a dynamic agreement, which organizes the gradual increase of countries’ commitments every five years and supports developing countries in implementing their commitments. The announcement of President Putin at the Russian energy week that Russia will achieve climate neutrality “no later than 2060” is an important step. The upcoming COP26 can be another milestone in our collective efforts to solve the problem of climate change and build a greener, more prosperous future for all.“
However, it is not only governments and states that drive the fight against climate change, business, science and civil society play a crucial role too. Russian businesses already are at the forefront of the green transformation. An increasing number of companies sets for themselves ESG goals and fixed dates for carbon neutrality, supported by financial institutions and authorities. They are also eager to support the development of climate projects that could allow them to offset their carbon-intensive activities. These businesses, just as anywhere in the world, need clear regulations and guidelines. It is important that work in the support of green finance, green and climate projects and on the regulation of CO2-emissions continues.
The Russian Regions too play a crucial role. The example of the Sakhalin shows how they can move not only the discourse but also take over a pioneering role and achieve progress in a relatively short time. Many other regions are currently exploring ways of developing their own green agendas. They need to be supported financially and with expertise. Partner cities and regions from the EU can be an important way of advancing knowledge exchange on sustainable regional development. At the international level, the C40 initiative (Cities Climate Leadership Group) involved in the fight against climate change launched in 2005 is a good example of cooperation at the local level, with 94 cities (plus 6 observers) representing 49 countries, 600 millions of habitants, 25% of global GDP and 70% of GHG emissions.
All efforts by businesses, authorities and government will not succeed without the support of the people who are convinced of the urgency of climate action. Today much of the dynamics in green development across the globe comes from local initiatives where people unite to find solutions to the problems they are confronted with in their daily lives. This is also the case in Russia. Here science, local businesses and educational initiatives can play an important role in advancing the societal transformation that a green economy entails across the country.
International cooperation, exchange of knowledge and experience is crucial for all this. The climate disasters that have happened this year show us once again: we live on the same planet, whether we like it or not. Therefore, we must act together. Much is already happening in this regard. Germany and France are key partners for Russia in this area. During the first half of 2022, when France will hold the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU, we hope to strengthen the dialogue on climate change between the EU and Russia.
This could build on several examples of German and French climate-cooperation with Russia as both countries support Russia in the development and introduction of best available technologies in order to pursue even more ambitious climate goals. The German-Russian Year on ”Economics and Sustainability“ offers multiple opportunities for bilateral cooperation. In a similar way the French-Russian ”Decentralized Cooperation Year“ aims at renewing mutual cooperation especially at the local level. By the end of the year the French embassy will be launching a competition for Russian cities in the field of sustainable development.
These French/German-Russian initiatives accompany a long list of bilateral events where government representatives but also academics and companies are brought together, show how important cooperation towards a decarbonized world is. Looking in our children’s and grandchildren’s eyes we know that it is our responsibility to work together, so they will have a planet they can and want to live on!
Erschienen in der russischen Zeitung RBC (auf russisch)