Climate change summit leaves sceptical Russia cold

  • Date: 16/12/09

BBC News: As President Dmitry Medvedev prepares to join talks to save the planet in Copenhagen, only a minority of Russians will be worrying much about the outcome. Climate change and the environment are not big issues for most Russians – and most of the time the government seems equally unconcerned.

“Global warming, the Kyoto Protocol, cutting emissions, nuclear waste, incinerators – it might be a topic of discussion among Moscow’s business elite, but the masses are nowhere near these issues. No-one’s talking about them,” said former Russian deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov, an outspoken critic of the current Russian government.

“There is one popular opinion, though – that Russia is a cold country and warming it up slightly wouldn’t do any harm.”

Russia has pledged to ensure that greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 are at least 25% below 1990 levels.

But since they are currently 34% below 1990 levels – thanks to an economic slump that coincided with the collapse of the Soviet Union – the economy can continue to grow for some time before it becomes necessary to go green.

A BBC poll conducted this summer suggests that Russia is far less concerned about climate change than other European countries. Only 46% of 1,008 respondents in Russia said it was a “very serious” problem, and only 54% favoured government investment to address climate change if it might hurt the economy – figures closer to those for the US or India than for Western Europe.

Warming ‘myth’

Officially, the Kremlin has recognised that human activity has contributed to climate change. But this is at odds with the message put out by state television, which has screened documentaries on the “myth” of global warming.

One of Russia’s leading ecologists, Professor Alexey Yablokov, an adviser to the Russian Academy of Sciences and a former adviser to President Boris Yeltsin, puts some of the blame at the door of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

“Putin did say that climate change was good for Russia. He might have been half-joking, but then he was being half-serious, too,” he says.

“And Russian people think the same thing – after all, that’s what they hear on state television. Our population has been brainwashed and 99% of it only listens to the TV channels controlled by the Kremlin.”

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