RSEU Conference “Climate and Energy – Solutions for the Future”, St. Petersburg, October 26-28, 2015

The 8th all-Russian conference took place in suburban St.Petersburg from October 26 to 28 under the title “Climate and Energy – Solutions for the Future”, and brought together RSEU members from all over the country, including experts and young ecoactivists. The conference included sessions dedicated to climate and energy as well as nuclear safety. The conference adopted the unified position of Russian environmental NGOs for the upcoming UNFCCC negotiations in Paris.

The conference was opened by a youth session, which included a training on the volunteer program of Climate Ambassadors. The participants were given the chance to refresh their knowledge of the subject and learn and discuss something new, and were instructed on how to use the full educational kit that was developed by Friends of the Baltic NGO based on the materials by Dodo, an ENGO from Finland. The youth climate network was officially kick-started and is now working on building momentum for the youth climate action in the run-up to Paris.

At the climate session that took place on October 27, Alexey Kokorin of WWF reported on the current state of the preparation of the new climate agreement that is to be adopted in Paris later this year. Unfortunately, the Governments are not currently ready to pledge enough to try to keep global warming below 2 degrees. Russia is the world’s 4th largest emitter of GHG gases, yet it still relying on carbon absorption by forests, instead of creating real plans to reduce emissions and develop renewable energy sources. The coming session is expected to be very intense.

For the first time ever, the notion of climate justice was presented at a RSEU event. Dipti Bhatnagar of Friends of the Earth International made it clear that the process of solving the climate crisis cannot be separated from the issues of energy sovereignty and the issue of fair distribution of energy resources, i.e. global inequality. The poorest countries and regions are the most vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change, and if we want to address this issue properly, we need global effort, and for rich countries to admit their historical responsibility for the climate crisis and increase their contributions to the Green Climate Fund. The question of solving the climate crisis is the question of survival for billions of people, of maintaining a decent and adequate quality of life.

Julia Menshova, an expert of the St.Petersburg Committee for Nature Use, presented the city’s Climate Strategy. St.Petersburg is the only city in Russia where a similar document has been developed, which is a significant step forward for Russia’s regional climate policy development. However, the focus of the Strategy is directed mostly at adaptation measures, while emissions reduction is almost omitted altogether. Although the framework for adaptation activities has been set up, and we hope to see it being brought to life over the course of the coming years, since St.Petersburg is under an increased threat of a number of negative effects of climate change, such as, for instance, floods, coastal erosion, disruption of infrastructure and decline in human health.

RSEU Climate Secretariat presented the overview of actions undertaken by Russia’s regions in the field of climate and energy. In 2015 most of the regions, responding to inquiries by RSEU, submitted their reports that revealed that in most of them no consistent work is undertaken to study the effects of climate change on specific territories, to develop adaptation measures for different sectors and cities’ infrastructure, rural settlements etc. Neither is there consistent work on reducing GHG emissions, except for measured developed within the framework of regional energy efficiency and energy saving programs. In a few regions, however, first steps are being made towards the development of integrated climate actions plans. For example, Barents region developed a Climate Action Plan for 2013-2015, and the list goes on. Overall, there is a positive trend to boost climate-related activities that can be observed by analyzing the reports.

Alexander Fedorov, RSEU co-Chair and the Chair of the Center for Environmental Initiatives, draw everyone’s attention to the problem of transport - to its consumption of resources (around of 80% of all oil extracted globally and 27% of all energy produced) and its impact on climate (over 13% of total global GHG emissions), as well as air pollution and human health. A ‘modal shift’ is seen as the solution to this issue, which implies a shift towards more environmentally friendly means of transportation, along with prioritizing the development of mass transit options, technical improvement of vehicles, and avoiding unnecessary transfers and shipments.

Georgy Safonov of Higher school of Economics opened the Energy session. His presentation on “Low-carbon development – global challenges and opportunities for Russia” showed the modelled trajectories of decarbonization for the 16 largest economies of the world that are responsible for the 70% of global emissions. The calculations show that not only is this sort of development feasible, it is profitable, too.
The Position of Russian NGOs regarding the international climate negotiations in Paris was intensely discussed and finally adopted.

These, as well as all the other presentations that were given at the conference, are available for download on our website (Russian only).

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