Published with the kind permission of the author
In the Global Review/ Club of Rome paper ” EU-Russian ecological cooperation needed despite and because of the Covid crisis”we described the Russian state of mind in ecological affairs as follows:
“Russian strategists including Putin have a very ambivalent relation to climate crisis. On the one side Putin signed the Paris Climate Accord—different to Trump and Bolsonaro -, thinks about the consequences of the frost melt of the Russian East and the airing of methane, on the other side Putin as most Russian strategists have the vision of a Russian resource empire for the world economy. Ecological ideas are also very much underdeveloped in Russian think tanks, strategy forums and elites and the economic ton ideology of the former Soviet Union and the Western capitalist countries before the Club of Rome are still mainstream in Russia. Russia shall flood the world with gas, oil, wheat, timber and other mineral resources to get cash. Energy diplomacy is still a central part of the material base of the Russian economy and some strategists hope that in the case of global warming Russia could also become an agroempire due to expanding agricultural land and production as the other parts of the world will suffer from hunger.
The question is if this sort of traditional resource empire thinking can be replaced by a more modern ecological resource empire thinking which guarantees Russia an important place in the world and a material base. How can the traditional resource empire which is based on oil and gas exports overcome the contradiction with ecology, the Paris Climate Accord and the idea of decarbonisation? “
In the paper we proposed an EU-Russia climate protection cooperation which includes the reforestation of the green lungs of Eurasia, the Siberian forests, the promotion of green or blue and turquese hydrogen technology with gas, methanol economy, biochar, the cooperation in the construction of green and smart cities, the cooperation for sustainable agriculture including clean meat, the promotion of soft dacha tourism and the shared protection of the Arctic.
It seems that now a discussion about the role and the necessity of ecolology has started within the Russian elite.
After the programmatic arcticle by Global Review and the Vice President of the Club of Rome Germany, Frithjof Finkbeiner on the blog website of the think tank of the Russian Foreign Ministery Russia International Affairs Council (RIAC) “ EU-Russia ecological cooperation needed despite and because of the Covid crisis” , which was also published on the website of Dr. Kulikov´s International Institute for Social and Economic Studies (IISES), RIAC announced its own seminar with the CREON group about ecological cooperation on: RIAC — CREON Group Seminar “Prospects for Cooperation between Russia and the EU in the Ecology Sphere”
“On April 16, 2021, at 12:00 (MSK), Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) and CREON Group company will hold a seminar on the topic “Prospects for cooperation between Russia and the EU in the ecology sphere”.
Cooperation between Russia and the European Union in ecology and sustainable development field is one of the promising areas of bilateral relations. For Russia and Russian companies, this opens up prospects in the EU energy market and access to technologies for waste processing and production of renewable energy sources. For the European Union and companies from the EU countries, this is an opportunity to import products that meet its environmental standards.
However, the opaque situation regarding the European Border Carbon Mechanism (CBAM) in the background of the EU Green Deal raises a number of questions from government institutions and business representatives on both sides. What are the prospects for bilateral cooperation between Russia and the EU in sustainable development? What will the CBAM look like and when will it work? How will the EU Green Deal affect Russian and European companies in the Russian market? What are the risks for the development of relations between Russia and the EU in the ecology sphere? How will Russian and European business react to European initiatives? Experts and representatives of the business community will answer these and other questions.
Igor Ivanov, President of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC);
Artem Bulatov, Deputy Director of the Department of European Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation;
Laurent Bardon, Head of the Economics and Trade Section of the Delegation of the European Union to Russia;
Igor Makarov, Head of the Department of World Economy, Head of the Laboratory for Economics of Climate Change at Higher School of Economics, RIAC expert;
Rem Korteweg, Senior Research Fellow at the Clingendael – the Netherlands Institute of International Relations;
Elena Maslova,Associate Professor of the Department of Integration Processes, Senior Researcher at IMI MGIMO; Senior Researcher at the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences, RIAC expert;
Natalya Piskulova, Professor of the Department of International Economic Relations and Foreign Economic Relations at MGIMO University, RIAC expert;
Business community representatives (Gazprombank, En+ Group, Association of European Businesses and exporting companies).
Ivan Timofeev, RIAC Program Director;
Florian Willershausen, Member of the Management Board, CREON Group.
Now Russian geopolitical strategist Karaganov and related institutes and analysts issued a report”Turning to Nature: Russia’s New Environmental Policy in “Green” Transformation of the Global Economy and Politics” published on the website of Russia in Global Affairs. Karaganov and his supporters think that green technology is as important as cybernetics in the 70s and 80s, an innovative gap which the former Sovjet Union didn´t realize and that caused its disintegration and crisis. Therefore Russia should develop green technology, modernize its economy, but focus on nature conservatition and protection as it should not get in the same situation as the SU. He sees nature protection as a source for patriotism, national identity, national competitivness and an important internal affair, but also as an international geopolitical factor. But everything is under geopolitical and not that much under ecological criterias. And to be honest, the climate change policy is a mixture between ecological, geopolitical and economic interests-sometimes hard to distinguish, but Karaganov sees mainly the geopolitical and the economic side and has no real understanding of the ecological side for the one planet and its inhabitants Therefore Karaganov addresses more an Eurasian concept of ecologism, not that much the Western but he wants define ecology as a geopolitical factor and common good under Russian national and Eurasian definition and interests. Non-Western states, BRIC, SCO, EAEU and the ASEAN should be the main cooperation partners, not the West, even if he thinks that there still has to be some sort of cooperation. But as the EU wants carbon tariffs and has its own ecological concept, Russia had to design its own concept for a green Eurasia and developing countries which fits its and their interests better than Western concepts would do. Karaganov is also focusing more on nature conservation and protection measures than on decarbonization.
It is unclear if Karaganov really understood the desartrous consequences of CO2 emissions, even for Russia and there is one planet and one ecology who dioesn´t care about borders or if he just wants to avoid any decarbonization, move on with Russian busisness as usual and to repair and only reforest the ecological damages. Russia as an international supplier of repair stations for ecological destasters Fight the symptoms, but not the cause. The combination of ecology and patriotism, national identity and Eurasianism is also in this direction . And ecology and the conservation and preservation of nature should also not become some sort of new reactionary blood, soil and honour mother earth and fatherland ideology. which becomes irrational, nationalistic and reject the rational meaning of nature as a resource for all menkind and base for human beings and living.
On the other side, Russia as many carbon exporting or based countries can´t be pushed to a total decarbonization without clearly getting an alternative from the West. Otherwise it would really be a new form of imperialism. The EU is also taking into account carbon states like “coal-Poland” and try to find a moderate way for it. The Russian elites and also the Russian people don´t want to be thrown in a chaotic, unplanned crash decarbonization with desastrous consequences like they experienced with Jelzin´s and Sachs´ 100 day economic privatization crash program. It remains to be seen if both side can find a compromise besides other geopolitical rivalry and interests.
As Sergei A. Karaganov,Honorary Chairman of the CFDP Presidium, Academic Supervisor and Dean of the Faculty of World Economics and International Affairs, National Research University-Higher School of Economics, writes in a related article:
Turning to Green
We made a kind of intellectual breakthrough in the middle of 2019 during a series of situation analysis sessions held under the auspices of the Russian Foreign Ministry and some public and government organizations. In fact, such an unexpected outcome is one of the purposes of the situation analysis. We discussed a non-trivial issue―the need for new ideas for Russian foreign policy. We realized during the discussions that the protection of nature in our country and the world could and should be one of such ideas, that it could be a source of patriotism and a means of advancing the country’s international position.
As we explored this idea further, it became clear that despite abundant rhetoric and even the adoption of many environmental measures, we had no integral policy concept in this area which occupies an increasingly important place on the international agenda. Although Russia has certain competitive advantages, it is hunkering down, biting back, and reluctantly dragging along the course being chartered mainly by Western countries. Naturally, they propose an agenda that is based primarily on their own interests and competitive advantages. Meanwhile, China and other developing countries are getting actively involved in the race for leadership in defining the future green agenda.
Russia, for the most part, remains stubbornly silent and its official documents sometimes even list the development of green technologies among the main challenges to national economic security. And this is how it will certainly be if we do not start adjusting our thinking and economy to the needs and trends of the future world and try to determine and impose our own vision of environmentalpolicy. In our work we have made an attempt to propose a version of Russia’s independent position on environmental protection and climate “for the world.” But we quickly realized that it was impossible without formulating a new policy “for ourselves.”
We conducted a series of studies and a record number―three― situation analyses, trying to engage most of the prominent Russian experts, not only enthusiasts, but also skeptics. This resulted in a report, sent out to relevant agencies and recently presented at TASS, titled “Turning to Nature: Russia’s New Environmental Policy in Green Transformation of the Global Economy and Politics.” (The report is available on the websites of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy and Russia in Global Affairs).
The report is contradictory; it will certainly cause many sharp disputes and is, in fact, their result. But for all the differences, the experts and government officials participating in the discussions unanimously agreed that Russia urgently needs independent, offensive, and long- term environmental policy. Without it, Russia will be doomed to lagging in the internal affairs and get marginalized externally.
The report contains many ideas intended to provoke a discussion, hopefully constructive, and force the Russian ruling class to engage in the development of an active domestic and international environmental policy.
I will name only those ideas that are most obvious (and least provocative).
A refusal to correct structural distortions in the Russian economy, including by developing green industries, may cause the country to fall far behind the main global economic trends for a long time in much the same way the Soviet Union fell behind in cybernetics in the 1970-1980s.
Due to the peculiarities of Russia’s territory, nature, and economic specialization, its potential weight in the environmental field is much bigger than its weight in the global economy. The country can make a massive contribution to solving global environmental problems (and get benefits).
Russia’s nature conservation agenda should be built around this contribution. Russia needs to position itself as one of the leaders in joint efforts to preserve our planet’s environment, and as an ecological and clean power in addition to other attractive roles the country plays in international affairs and the world economy (the leading provider of international security and peace, guarantor of strategic stability, defender of sovereignty and independence, political, cultural and civilizational diversity in the world, the right of countries to independently choose development models, etc.).
Closeness to nature and its preservation should be presented as an important part of Russia’s national identity, its mission for itself and the world. This will not only mitigate or eliminate risks from the country’s current passive environmental policy, but it will also open up many opportunities that have not yet been tapped, will strengthen its political influence, and bring economic gains.
In particular, this will:
– lend a new meaning to national development, give Russian society and elites an attractive and forward-looking idea, create a new consolidating national agenda that will unite both liberals and etatists, and offer the country as a whole a promising mission for itself and the world;
– strengthen Russia’s authority primarily among developing countries, but also among some Western states and societies, emphasize its positive contribution to global development and strengthen its positions in the unfolding process of establishing a new international order, as well as draw economic benefits from cooperation with other countries in the field of nature conservation;
– give an additional impetus to the gradual transformation of the Russian economy towards non-oil and gas industries, mainly those that combine the use of natural and human capital―Russia’s main competitive advantages in the 21st century―thus facilitating the sustainable economic development of the country as a whole in the long term;
– help preserve and develop the country’s natural potential, which is one of the most important foundations of patriotism and readiness to work for the country and its people.
The proposed turn to nature is long due in Russia; it is felt by a significant part of intellectuals and bureaucracy, and it becomes increasingly popular among business and political elites.
Once again, let me emphasize that Russia’s new environmental policy should be directed inward in the first place and be aimed at modernizing the economy and giving more attention to our own environment.
Its external target audience is primarily non-Western, EAEU, SCO, BRICS, and ASEAN countries, most of which are in the cloud of climate ideology designed mainly in the West.
The development and promotion of our own concept will allow us to stop dragging reluctantly behind the ideas put forward by the West and to start struggling to seize the initiative. Clearly, a new policy should not be directed against the West; in fact, global environmental protection cannot be based on a win-lose philosophy.
But we should propose a strategy that pursues our own and common interests. Environmental protection is one of the few areas where contact with the West, at least at the expert level, is still likely and where Western experience can be useful in helping reduce mounting unnecessary and dangerous confrontation.
Dialogue is also needed in order to make potential partners realize that many aspects of their climate policies are counterproductive not only for the world, but also for Western countries themselves. The EU’s plans to introduce a “carbon tariff”―taxation of imported goods and services with high carbon content, including hydrocarbons themselves―will almost inevitably lead to a wave of compensatory duties by countries that produce goods with a big carbon footprint. This will launch a new round of protectionism, which will dwarf the effects of Trump’s protectionist policy and ruin entire economic sectors in developed countries. Everyone will be harmed. Our report proposes joint efforts to invest innature conservation technologies in developing countries, which will be much more beneficial. They will be much more effective in terms of nature protection than similar investments in industrialized countries where almost any such financial commitment produces a much smaller result due to the level of environmental conservation achieved there.
Finally, we should jointly put forward a new development philosophy that will focus primarily on limiting excessive consumption practically by all in the rich countries and reducing overconsumption by the rich and wealthy in developing countries, including Russia. In our report, we even ventured to propose―as part of the necessary and inevitable introduction of progressive taxation―a special environmental tax on luxury goods and super-large households. Naturally, these proposals will not be eagerly welcomed by some of our compatriots, nor were they unanimously supported by the participants in the situation analyses.
Similarly, there was no unanimous support for our proposal to converge all environmental activities that are now scattered among many departments (too many cooks spoil the broth) within one ministry with the head having the status of deputy prime minister, or within the Security Council.
We will have to formulate a new environmental policy “for ourselves and the world” anyway. The sooner we do this, the better. If we do not do it, then we will not get to the problem, but the problem will get to us.
//The article was originally published in Russian in Rossiiskaya Gazeta.”
The report is available at Russia in Global Affairs: