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Russia plans for climate change 'advantages'

Michaela Cavanagh with AFP
January 6, 2020

Russia has published an action plan to mitigate risks associated with present and future climate change in the country. The report also outlines "positive" effects of changes in the climate.

A forest fire in Russia
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/Ministry of Emergency Situations of Krasnoyarsk Region

The Russian government has unveiled a plan to adapt the country's economy and population to climate change.

The 17-page document was published online by Russia's Ministry of Economic Development on Saturday, and outlines measures to mitigate the damage caused by climate change as well as to "use the advantages" of warmer temperatures. 

It acknowledges that changes in the climate have had "a prominent and increasing effect" on industry, socioeconomic development and the health and well-being of the population.

The two-year scheme covers the first phase of the country's adaptation to climate change until 2022, with the aim to "lower the losses" of global warming.

Read moreOpinion: Russia frozen on climate change

A girl protests for climate protection in Moscow
A girl holds a poster in front of the Russian government's building during a Greenpeace protest in MoscowImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/D. Lovetsky

Climate threat and opportunity

Climate change, the report says, poses a threat to public health, endangers permafrost, and heightens the likelihood of infections and natural disasters. Russia will likely see longer and more frequent droughts, extreme precipitation and flooding, increased risk of fire as well as the displacement of different species from their habitats, according to the plan.

Expected positive effects of climate change, the plan says, include the reduction of energy consumption during warm periods, shrinking levels of ice which will foster increased access to navigational opportunities in the Arctic Ocean, and expanded agricultural areas.

The plan lists 30 economic and social steps designed to minimize the vulnerability of the Russia's population, economy and natural resources to climate change.

These measures include considerations such as the government's calculation of the risk of Russian products becoming unable to compete if they fail to meet new climate-related standards, and preparing new educational materials to teach climate change in schools. The list also suggests dam building and shifting to drought-resistant crops, in addition to crisis-preparation measures like offering emergency vaccinations or evacuations in case of a disaster.   

Read moreRussia's lone climate protester pushes for Fridays for Future movement

Russia on front lines of climate change

Russia is warming faster than the global average — its average annual air temperature has increased 2.5 times more rapidly than the average global air temperature since the mid-1970s.

The country is one of the world's most vulnerable to climate change, with large arctic areas and infrastructure that is built on permafrost. In recent years, Russia has experienced flooding and fires, with the massive wildfires in Siberia in 2019 prompting the government to declare an emergency.

Russia experienced its hottest year on record in 2019, according to the country's meteorological office.

Read moreSiberian fires continue to wreak havoc, Greenpeace calls it a 'climate catastrophe'

A flooded area in Novgorod Region, northwest Russia in November 2019.
A flooded area in Novgorod Region, northwest Russia, in November 2019Image: Imago Images/ITAR-TASS/A. Devicheskaya

Putin denies humans behind climate change

Russia formally adopted the 2015 Paris climate accord in September last year, and criticized the US for withdrawing from the agreement. 

However, President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied the scientific consensus that climate change is caused by man-made emissions. Last month, in his year-end press conference, he said "nobody knows the origins of global climate change."

Environmental activists in Russia have been targeted by the authorities, while Putin has also criticized climate campaigner Greta Thunberg, portraying her as an impressionable teenager who can be "used" for someone else's interests.

Tens of thousands of scientists have collated overwhelming amounts of data pointing to the man-made destabilization of Earth's climate system and the importance of limiting current and future greenhouse gas emissions.

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