A lot of good news has come from Glasgow. The politicians agreed to stop deforestation and financing of projects aimed at mining. One hundred countries will reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030. The last of the largest countries and economies in the world, India, has joined the carbon neutrality agreement. However, all this is not enough to reach 1.5 degrees, as all countries agreed on at the famous Paris conference in 2015. Recently, experts recalculated the indicators and declared that with the observance of current measures and the implementation of the COP26 (The Conference of the Parties) agreements, our planet will warm by 2.4 degrees. This can lead to extreme heat waves, floods, hurricanes and crop failures becoming the norm, which in turn will make many areas uninhabitable.
COP26 has come to an end. Was it possible to turn the tide on the climate agenda, and what did the Russian representatives do for two weeks in Scotland?
Nelya, you worked at the UN in New York and for the last 6 years have been actively involved in advocacy for sustainable development in Russia and Europe. You spent the last week in Glasgow. Are you satisfied with the results of the summit?
It is very difficult to be satisfied with the results of such events. They always require a search for a compromise, which greatly marks down the ambitions of achieving positive changes. Negotiations have been going on for 25 years, and carbon dioxide emissions continue to grow. One should not expect that there will be a sudden turnaround of the parties involved in the negotiations at this conference.
In the news, they wrote about the statements of politicians and agreements between the countries. At the same time, thousands of civil society activists from all over the world came to the summit. Was their voice heard?
Civil society must work throughout the year, not just at the conference, and this is what happens. The conference is another opportunity for direct contact with decision-makers. But, as a rule, it is almost impossible to change their positions in such a short time. All representatives come with more or less developed positions and with a certain degree of possible compromise. However, civil society should of course participate in conferences and negotiate with representatives from all sectors. For example, negotiate with representatives of the extractive industries to influence their opinion in the future.
This was my second COP. I went to the first one in 2009 in Copenhagen. Then, inside the conference itself, there were broadcasts of what was happening on the street. Delegates could watch the protests taking place outside the official site. In Glasgow, I have not seen this. As my colleagues shared with me, such broadcasts on COP have not been shown for a long time. That is, when you are inside, you have no way of understanding what is happening outside the site itself. But it is there that public actions are unfolding aimed at changing the position of decision-makers.
Russia emits about 5% of the total amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually and ranks fourth in terms of emissions after China, the United States and India. Vladimir Putin says the country will achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. However, like the head of China, he did not attend the Glasgow conference. Who represented Russia at the summit from the state, business and civil society? And does Russia offer alternative concepts of combating climate warming?
The Russian delegation was one of the largest - over 300 people. Traditionally, our country brought representatives of various state corporations to the conference. Rosatom took an active part in the work of the Russian pavilion. Today, nuclear energy is viewed and promoted by Moscow as an alternative green energy, which, in fact, will help reduce CO2 emissions. Civil society in the official delegation, apparently, was represented by young people who, among other things, also promoted nuclear energy. But we all understand very well that this is not the independent civil society that we would like to see in the delegation. All independent organizations, such as Greenpeace, the Russian Social and Environmental Union, Fridays for Future, most often receive accreditation themselves. They are present at negotiations and work independently of the official representatives of the Russian Federation.
Nelya, you work in several Sustainable Development Goals monitoring and advocacy projects in Russia, Belarus, Moldova and regularly represent Eastern Europe at interregional meetings in Geneva. What opportunities does civil society have to increase the chances of achieving the goals?
Despite the fact that government agencies are not ready or may even not know how to work with civil society, we need to take the initiative into our own hands and try to build a constructive, open and professional dialogue. I understand that there are a lot of barriers on this path and that it is not that we cannot achieve any changes, but sometimes we are simply not given the opportunity to speak out and be heard. I believe that we need to tread this path step by step, step by step, and, despite the prejudiced attitude towards us, try to build this dialogue without lowering our hands and heads.
Ph.D, sustainable development analyst and UN consultant. Founder of the Coalition for Sustainable Development of the Country (КУРС) and the Open School for Sustainable Development.
The interview was conducted by Sergey Medvedev.