Russia Announces Plan To ‘Use the Advantages’ Of Climate Change

On January 5, the Russian government unveiled a plan to address the dangers of climate change and how to mitigate its impact. The plan is aimed at adapting the nation’s economy and population to climate change’s impact, and while it includes some proposals to address the negative consequences of climate change, the report also contains an outline of the so-called “positive” implications of climate change and the Russian government’s intention to harness these effects for their benefit. 

The report was published to the webpage of Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development and states that climate change has had “a prominent and increasing effect” on the nation’s population and industry, including economic development and the overall wellbeing of the Russian citizenship. According to the report, climate change presents a threat to public health due to the increased risk of spreading infection and bacteria. It also poses a threat to the landscape; climate change endangers permafrost, as well as heightening the risk of both flooding and droughts, species displacement, fire, and other natural disasters. 

The two-year plan seeks to “lower the losses” of global warming, as well as “use the advantages” of increasing temperatures. These effects are addressed as being the reduction of energy consumption during warm seasons, ice shrinkage allowing for navigational opportunities, and expanded agricultural areas. 

Russia is warming faster than the remainder of the globe; on average, its air temperature has increased 2.5 times more quickly than the global average since the mid-1970s. With a large arctic area and a great deal of infrastructure residing on permafrost, Russia is especially vulnerable to decreased ice coverage, melting of permafrost, and heightened risks of natural disasters. A number of massive wildfires in Siberia led the Russian government to declare a state of emergency in early 2019. Despite the fact that Russia has been disproportionately impacted by climate change, however, there is a lack of enthusiasm surrounding climate change protests. There have been few demonstrations pushing Russian officials to address climate change, even though the issue has come to the forefront in the past several years with the introduction of the Fridays for Future movement across nearly every continent. 

The plan released by the Ministry of Economic Development on January 5 outlines 30 steps that the nation plans to take in addressing the outcomes of climate change; they are primarily economic and social measures intended to decrease risk to public health and to Russia’s population, resources, economy, and species. The report includes outlines regarding Russian products being unable to compete in a global market if they cannot meet climate-related standards, preparations of new educational materials for teaching climate change in classrooms, and crisis-preparation for things like distribution of vaccinations in the event of a spread of infection or disease. 

Although the plans may appear ambitious on paper, they span only a two-year range and do not address enough detail to have the impact that the Russian government is suggesting that they will have. The report also fails to address humans as a driving force in climate shift; Russian president Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied the scientific consensus on the human connection to global warming, saying that “no one knows the origins of global climate change.” Though Russia is part of the Paris Climate Accord and criticized the U.S. for withdrawing from the agreement, Putin has also suggested that young climate activist Greta Thunberg is an impressionable adolescent that is being used as a pawn for a political agenda. 

The presented agenda for Russia to tackle climate change is a good start but is likely to fail as long as it does not address the impact that humans have on climate shift and create a plan to address it. Due to its vulnerability to climate change’s consequences, Russian populations, landscape, natural resources, and species are likely to suffer greatly if the government fails to take more ambitious steps in reducing the impacts of global climate change.