New authority for "old" business

In the end of 2012, the President of Russia signed the Order "On the interagency working group of the Presidential Administration of the Russian Federation on issues related to climate change and sustainable development." Representatives of environmental organizations urged the country's leadership to create such an authority to address climate change already four years ago.

According to the Order of the Russian President, the membership of the new "climate" organ will be approved in the coming days. Alexander Bedritsky, a presidential adviser and the special representative of the President on climate issues will become the head of this interagency task force.

It follows from the Statute of the Working Group, that this interagency group "is a coordinating body established to ensure effective cooperation between the federal bodies of executive power, other state bodies, public associations, academic and other organizations in the implementation of the state policy on issues related to climate change and sustainable development."

Its internal objective is the oversight on implementation of the Concept of Transition of the Russian Federation to Sustainable Development, approved by a presidential Decree of April 1, 1996, and the Climate Doctrine, adopted in 2009 and ensured by the Implementation Plan in April 2011. The group’s external objectives are promotion of the respective interests of the Russian Federation in G20, G8, and BRICS.

Establishment of the high-level interagency working group on climate change immediately after the announcement of the Russia's "anticlimate" position at the UN conference in Doha (rejection of international commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to participate in market-based mechanisms to implement them in the second period of the Kyoto Protocol) looks strange. The daily "Kommersant" calls the new authority a "carbon mega-regulator" and says that its creation "is the logical continuation of the ambitious intentions by Mr. Bedritsky to build internal Russian market for carbon regulation ... According to the plan of implementing the Climate Doctrine, the Ministry of Economy shall develop appropriate fiscal and economic measures by 2020. The Ministry together with "Business Russia" has prepared an application to the EBRD in order to secure financial and expert support to the project."

It is appropriate to recall that representatives of environmental organizations have called the country's leadership to create such an interagency body to address climate change already four years ago. In their position, the public organizations - RSEU members - wrote in November 2008: "The interagency cooperation in addressing climate change and energy efficiency remains ineffective... We believe that Russia needs to take an active part in organization and operation of new financial institutions to address climate challenges: reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the changes that cannot be prevented..." The position noted the need for the Climate Doctrine - a strategic document, which should be the basis for plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to improve energy efficiency.

However, the time that has elapsed since the Russian Government approved the Climate Doctrine may be considered missed for Russia, which continues to be one of the largest "supplier" of CO2 emissions.

Michail Yulkin, the Head of the Working Group on Climate with the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, says: "So far, there was no dialogue between the business community and the scientific community on climate change policy. The situation with the Kyoto Protocol proves this: is it still unclear, whether a negative decision was made, or just no decision was made. This is high time to understand that the problems of climate change and sustainable development are not environmental and economic issues. Neither are they issues of oil and gas pipelines. While the Ministry of Economy has only a part-time employee to work on low-carbon development, and there is no Ministry of Energy and Climate, we will remain on the periphery of advanced trends."

Olga Senova, the Head of the Climate Secretariat of the Russian Socio-Ecological Union, says that one can be happy that the RSEU proposal on establishment of an interagency body on climate change has been implemented. The Russian Socio-Ecological Union put forward this proposal immediately after the COP-14 UN conference four years ago. Perhaps, the recent decision by the President will help to overcome the barriers between the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Economic Development, the Ministry of Finance and other ministries and agencies in addressing emissions reductions. According to Olga Senova, unfortunately, we do not see links between "climate actions" with energy development, which continues to focus on carbon sources. Hopefully, the Interagency Working Group will identify a clear link between the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the development of energy efficiency and introduction of renewable sources, not just in words but in the figures and action plans.