On "high" climate

Russian official position at the climate negotiations tends to extremes: either it cannot be heard or it is impossible to remain silent about it. Some experts call the Russian climate policy "window dressing." However, kingpins of the Russian climate say that the real policy is not in conversations, but in national programs. Here is the latest official information regarding the major climatic issues from A. Bedritskiy, the presidential advisor on climate.

The official Russian delegation has repeatedly stated that Russia is for a comprehensive agreement with the common but differentiated responsibilities. According to Alexander Bedritskiy in his interview to RIA Novosti, if an international instrument, i. e., the convention, does not meet economic realities, one can hardly expect the desired effect. "We propose to remove this limitation, it is now a legal document ratified it in this form, we cannot ‘jump over’ credentials. A Protocol as any document below Convention does not address this issue."

The developed countries included in Annex II of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change have commitments to provide financial assistance to developing countries for actions to climate change mitigation and adaptation. Russia is not among them, but, according to Bedritskiy, it took voluntary commitments to participate in the assistance. The climate adviser says: "Russia is waiting for greater clarity in the principles and rules of ‘climate’ financial mechanisms, and then it will be ready to meet its voluntary commitments to help developing countries."

"The priority for us is CIS countries, but also other developing countries that are particularly vulnerable, island states and African countries." According to Alexander Bedritsky, appropriate instructions at the national level are already there, but "we need to understand how to operate."

Targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

The presidential advisor says that in the matter of commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, Russia will not proceed from "conversations" about potentially conservative scenarios, but from already taken decisions. In late September, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree setting national emission reduction targets for 2020 by 25 % as compared to the base year of 1990.

Bedritskiy says that "Russia may submit draft versions of targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the period after 2020 by the next UN climate conference in Lima in December 2014." However, he stresses that to determine this figure, it is necessary to know the necessary initial conditions of the new agreement, in particular, its period of validity and the basket of controlled greenhouse gases: "The process of development of commitments is individual for each party of the negotiations, but everyone must march in step."

The presidential adviser emphasizes: "No country succeeded to repeat what we have done so far. Since 1990, our GDP have grown by 12 %, and greenhouse gas emissions have decreased by 30 % ... This situation occurs because specific measures were taken, specific programs of modernization of industry are implemented and so on."

According to Bedritskiy, it is difficult to answer the question about when the emissions of greenhouse gases in Russia reach their peak and begin to decline, but this matter will be pursued in the negotiations. He said: "We understand and accept the call that we must strive to improve the goals. However, in many countries the situation is worse than in Russia. In the end, Russia cannot be an eternal donor, and do the work for others."

The Advisor to the President stressed that efforts to reduce emissions "are closely linked with the development and with competitiveness of goods, so it is very important that all have equal conditions." He added that Russia as a country in transition has the right, as well as the rapidly developing countries, for economic development and welfare of citizens.

"In the case of a significant over-fulfillment of the current target by 2020, Russia's position will be the same as in the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol: the virtual ‘reserve’ of reductions will be treated as achievements of the Russian Federation obtained through special measures. In this case one cannot talk about underdeclaration of commitments, which is a common assessment of the current target of the Russian Federation, because there are no "information sources sufficiently qualified to say what obligations are overstated and what are understated," says Bedritskiy.

"Those scenarios (for dynamics of greenhouse gas emissions - Ed.), which we used for this calculation, gave the numbers of 15 to 25 %. If we had 15 %, then yes, one might ask - why Russia has 15 % and not more ambitious commitments," said Bedritskiy.

Climate Doctrine

According to Bedritskiy, "Climate Doctrine is a political document, it sets out the principles. Neither one of the principles is in question and requires changes in the light of new data."

He recalled that the Doctrine adopted in 2009 mentions, for example, the importance of climate data for economic development, the importance of research in the field of climate change and the use of results, training, and promotion of knowledge about global climate change. "In this case, too short time has passed, to talk about necessary corrections there. Now we are working on implementation of the action plan, the plan - yes, shall be considered annually and corrected."

Bedritskiy told that starting from 2014, the Ministry of Natural Resources will publish publicly available reports on implementation of the action plan on realisation of the Climate Doctrine. "I raised this issue and ensured that the actions taken in the field of climate change are transparent. Unfortunately, some people are not quite aware of it," said Bedritskiy.

In April 2011, the Government of the Russian Federation approved the plan for implementation of the Climate Doctrine until 2020. The plan includes measures in such areas as information, socio-economic and scientific climate policy, operational and long-term measures on adaptation to climate change, operational measures to mitigate human impact on climate, and international cooperation in the sphere of climate change.

Of soot and methane

Russia remains the only country of G8 that has not formally joined the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, although the decision to join was made at the G8 summit in Camp David in May 2012. This Coalition was created in February of the same year and aims to reduce emissions of "short-lived" climate change factors, primarily methane, soot and hydrofluorocarbons.

The presidential adviser said earlier to RIA Novosti that he sees no "surplus value" in Russia's joining this Coalition. However, Bedritskiy acknowledged that "the problem with black carbon exists," and soot emissions monitoring system is clearly needed. As the Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation Sergey Donskoy stated previously, Russia may create such a national system for assessing and monitoring black carbon emissions in the framework of cooperation in the Arctic Council.

Independent experts believe that there are no objective reasons for Russia not to join the Coalition. This country performs monitoring as a Party of the Climate Convention and the Kyoto Protocol, and Russian reports pass annual inspection within climate agreements. There are hopes that Russia enters the Coalition, for the good for the country – its science and environment.

Low-Carbon Projects

Russia has no low-carbon policy as such: low-carbon strategies have been developed in several regions of the country and are "initiatives from below." However, the climate adviser to the President believes that "Russia is already implementing state programmes in key sectors of the economy, which are based on low-carbon development strategies." In his speech at the UN climate conference in Warsaw, he noted that adaptation to climate change "shall become the priority of the climate policy." The presidential adviser has understanding that adaptation, in addition to its self-importance, is linked with measures to mitigate the impact on the climate: if the country suffered extensive damage, reduction measures will divert resources from the economic recovery.

"First, the trend was that adaptation is necessary only for developing countries. Later, when the Katrina hurricane has passed, and so forth, they said - yes, actually it is necessary to take action for developed countries as well. Now we have got the sharpest signal in connection with Amur River... There are grandiose rivers, giant drainage areas, and observations are quite insufficient. Serious money is needed to measure not only traditional levels," said the presidential adviser.