The Climate Change and Russia’s Policy for Sustainable Development

UDC 327,8
Publication date: 29.04.2022
International Journal of Professional Science №4-2022

The Climate Change and Russia’s Policy for Sustainable Development

Khlopov Oleg Anatolyevich
PhD, Political Science, Associate Professor,
Department of American Studies
Russian State University for the Humanities (Moscow)

Abstract: The world is facing multiple crises as manifested in runaway climate change, a global pandemic, loss of ecosystems and biological species, and rapidly growing inequality. Addressing them requires broad transformational change that is outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, that encompasses the economy, institutions, and how we interact with the natural environment. This article highlights the state of development evaluation, introduces the state of the global environment and how evaluation as a profession and practice must change in order to respond to the challenges of sustainability. Tha auhor argues that Russian agenda of sustainable development presupposes the interconnection of its three components: ecological, economic and social, and the 2030 Agenda is addressed not only to governments, but involves the active participation of civil society and business.
Keywords: sustainable development, energy security, climate change, United Nations, Russia, USA.


            Climate change is considered by many to be the most critical issue of our time, posing a threat to security and socio-economic prosperity at the global level. Asia is very vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, as more than 60% (approximately 4.5 billion) of the world’s people live in the region, making it a growth center of the world [1].

            Climate change is considered by many to be the most critical issue of our time, posing a threat to security and socio-economic prosperity at the global level. Many regions especially are very vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.  In Asia,  as more than 60% (approximately 4.5 billion) of the world’s people live in the region, human-induced global warming reached approximately 1°C (between 0.8 °C and 1.2 °C) above pre-industrial levels, increasing at a rate of 0.2 C per decade.

            Climate change poses a variety of threats. The  risks are  attributable to climate change and attendant socio-economic circumstances. The former includes increasing rainfall, storms, flooding, inundation, sea level rise (SLR), uncertainty in terms of agricultural production, and the occurrence of heat waves [2]. In Asia Lowland areas, such as the Mekong Delta, the Yangtze River Delta, and the Ganges Delta may be partially or heavily inundated by SLR. Indeed, China, Canada, Vietnam, the United States, Brazil, Australia, Indonesia, and India all face similar challenges in terms of having the world’s largest potentially inundated areas. Included among the associated socio-economic issues are urbanization, population growth, increased migration, income disparity, volatile food prices, lack of insurance schemes, lack of financial resources to prepare for extreme events, and impact of information technology.

             Change Responses: Mitigation and Adaptation

            There are two approaches to addressing the issue of environmental change: one is to remove the causes of the change; the other is to adopt measures that will allow societies to adjust to the adverse effects.

            In the context of climate change, these responses are referred to as mitigation and adaptation, respectively. Mitigation to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and their role in climate change include energy conservation and the development of alternative energy sources, as well as forest protection. Adaptation, which serves to adjust human and natural systems to the assumed ongoing climate change, might include measures such as disaster prevention, as well as making changes in the cultivation of plant species and breeding new plant varieties.

            Mitigation strategies are roughly divided into two categories: those that reduce the sources of GHG emissions and those that act as GHG sinks. Reducing GHG emissions would include improved energy efficiency in both supply and demand, as well as the use of technologies for reducing GHG emissions. Supply-related reduction measures would include the development and widespread use of alternative energy derived from non-fossil fuels.

            Demand-related measures would involve energy conservation at various stages, including the production stage, the transportation stage, and the domestic utilization stage.   Measures such as afforestation and appropriate forest management clearly contribute positively to the conservation of ecosystems; however, CCS is somewhat problematic because of its potential to adversely impact ecosystems.

            These are the following adaptation measures [3]

            Avoiding or reducing the likelihood of adverse events or conditions. This means taking preventive measures against anticipated effects, e.g., improving catchment management, and avoiding excessive runoff and flooding.

            Reducing consequences. This involves measures to diminish damage that has already occurred, e.g., ensuring healthy reef and mangrove systems, which act as buffers during storm surges.

            Re-distributing or sharing risks. This includes measures to lessen the costs of damage by dispersing them among many people or over a long period, e.g., insurance schemes.

            Accepting risk. This means doing nothing, at least for a particular time, but includes the opportunity to learn from the experience.

            It generally takes considerable time for mitigation measures to take effect, but they can provide wide-ranging benefits. In contrast, adaptation measures have a rather immediate effect, but tend to operate in limited areas. Although mitigation measures can be evaluated on the basis of GHG emissions, it is difficult to set similar baseline and result indicators for adaptation measures and to properly evaluate their effectiveness. Both approaches have specific advantages and can be viewed as complementary.

            International Efforts and Legislation

            The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992 defined climate change as “a change in climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activities that alter the composition of the global atmosphere and which are in addition to natural climate variations observed over comparable time periods”[4].

            Past climate variations are attributed to natural processes while the observed climate change is due largely to anthropogenic causes. Climate change results from the increased emissions and subsequent concentration of gases such as methane (CH4), carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). These gases are referred to as greenhouse gases (GHGs) that form a cloud in the atmosphere due to human activities. They help to trap heat energy from the surface of the Earth, thus prevent heat from escaping into space. Global warming results in shifts in weather patterns that lead to melting of icebergs and sea-level rise, frequent hurricanes, impacts on water resources, agriculture, bio-diversity, energy demands and other resources. The result is the effect on the quality of life with some species becoming extinct.

            Awareness of climate change has been due to a number of initiatives that include:

            The Stockholm’s Declaration of the United Nations Conference on Human Environment that took place in 1972 [5];

            First World Climate Conference held in Geneva in 1979 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environmental Programme, resulting in the creation of the World Climate Research programme;

            First Joint UNEP/WMO and the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) held in Villach, Austria, in 1980 to initiate debate on a global convention and in 1985, the Group concluded that climate change and sea-level rise are closely related;

            Formation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988 and establishment of the three Working Groups: Working Group I on scientific analysis; Working Group II on impacts; and Working Group III on related legal instruments;

            United Nations Assembly in 1990 established the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) to draft a Framework Convention on Climate Change [6];

            United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992, adopted the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change by the world community and it became known as the Climate Change Convention.

            The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997 and the purpose was for nations to agree to take action to address global warming. The treaty committed state parties to reduce greenhouse gas emissions [7];

            Johannesburg Summit 2002 — the World Summit on Sustainable Development produced three outcomes: political declaration now known as the ‘Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development’; the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation; and ‘Type II’ commitments by governments and other stakeholders, including business and non-governmental organisations;

            Paris Agreement of 2015 is an agreement within the UNFCCC, dealing with greenhouse-gas-emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance, starting in the year 2020, the agreement was negotiated by representatives of 196 state parties at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC and adopted by consensus, and  the Paris Agreement’s long-term goal is to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels; and to limit the increase to 1.5°C [8].

            The development and improvement of the science of climate change involved a number of international programmes and projects that included:

Global Environmental Monitoring System (GEM) sponsored by UNEP;

            World Climate Data Programme that provides information on the state of climate system and diagnosis of significant anomalies of regional and global sequence;

            Climate Change Defection Project, which regularly updates estimates of climate change on global and regional basis and assessing the relative importance of these change;

             Global Climate Observation System (GCOS), which is intended to meet the needs for climate system monitoring, climate change determination and systematic observations of responses to climate change.

            The main sources of greenhouse gases include energy use and production (57%), chlorofluorocarbons (17%), agricultural practices (14%), deforestation (9%) and others including industrial (3%). Burning of coal, oil and natural gas produces large quantities of CO2, CH4 and N2O to the atmosphere. In South Africa, coal is the main source of electricity in the country, accounting for 79% in 2000 and 65.7% in 2006.

            The Role of Russia in Environmental Issues

            Russia vetoed the climate resolution of the UN Security Council. The document proposed to consider droughts and floods as prerequisites for armed conflicts. Despite the fact that the resolution was supported by the majority of those who voted, Russian strongly opposed the politicization of the climate.  On December 13 2021 Ireland and Niger put to the vote a resolution «Climate and Security», which would oblige the UN Security Council to recognize the climate crisis as «the fundamental cause of all conflicts and the risk factor for their emergence. The document also required the UN Secretary General to report regularly on the implications for security in the context of a particular country or region. The paper linked the threat of climate change to international security and called these threats as a «central component» of UN conflict prevention strategies [9].

            As a result of the vote, the draft resolution was supported by 12 members of the Security Council, Russia and India voted against, China abstained.  Russian UN Representative V. Nebenzya and Representative of India T.S. Tirumurti said that climate issues are under the jurisdiction of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This body is responsible for combating global threats arising from rising temperatures, but the Security Council is not the place to discuss these topics[10].

            It is obvious that the climate crisis is a serious challenge to peace and security, stability and prosperity, the effective observance of human rights, and in some cases even the very existence of states. However this resolution would give the United Nations the much-needed tools to address security challenges in a climate context. US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield  criticized Russia’s position, noting that there is «no justification» for the Russian veto and expressing her conviction that Russia went against the interests of the world community.

            The Russian Permanent Mission to the UN hastened to explain its veto. It said  that Russia opposed the draft UN Security Council resolution “Climate and Security”, which has been developed for several years, in which climate change was for the first time considered as a threat to the security of individual countries.

            Vasily Nebenzya  explained Russia’s position in more detail. The main thing is that, according to Moscow, within the framework of the draft UN Security Council resolution on climate and security, which Russia vetoed, was an attempt to turn a scientific and socio-economic problem into a political issue. The integration of a direct link between climate change and international security as a “central component” of UN strategies is unacceptable for Moscow.

            The press secretary of the Russian president, Dmitry Peskov, stressed that Moscow “absolutely disagrees” with the US position that Russia “let the world down” by blocking this resolution. The Kremlin spokesman added that the climate agenda is one of the priorities of Russian foreign policy, but it cannot be a factor that limits countries’ right to development. According to him, combating climate change and adapting to its negative consequences are sustainable development issues that should be dealt with by specialized platforms, the main one of which remains the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change [11].

            Nebenzia also expressed his disappointment with the attempt to throw this draft resolution in the absence of a consensus of the members of the Security Council, when the countries managed with great difficulty to agree at the summit in Glasgow on the implementation of the Paris climate agreement and on the measures that need to be taken to solve this problem.The diplomat stressed that  the climate agenda should play a unifying role to ensure the ultimate success of individual and joint actions, and not bring in more and more discord, especially for political purposes.

            The main thing in Russia’s position is the fear that the adoption of such a resolution would l make it possible to use military force and economic sanctions to force states that are not so radically related to the problem of climate warming to act in the interests of a certain group of countries. The most striking example of the perverted understanding and application of such resolutions is UN Security Council Resolution No. 1973, adopted on March 17, 2011. This resolution had authorized the military intervention of foreign states in the civil war in Libya, and also declared the protection of civilians as the goal of the intervention. As we know, everything ended with the destruction of the whole state and the death of its leader.

            The threat to Russia’s interests if such a resolution were adopted would be a forced restriction of its economic activities in the Arctic. And this would cause significant damage to the country’s economy, since the main explored hydrocarbon reserves are located in the Russian sector of this region. One can  imagine another imaginary scenario where Russian cargo carriers carrying coal deemed environmentally hazardous are intercepted by US and NATO navies in the Pacific region in order to prevent its shipments to Chiha, India or other countries in the Asia-Pacific region. These are hypotheses, but their implementation in the event of the adoption of the resolution would be quite probable.

            So the document proposed a one-sided (through the climate prism) approach to conflicts and threats to international peace and security. It ignores all other aspects of the situations in which there are countries involved in conflicts or lagging behind in socio-economic development. This much-supported initiative could greatly expand the criteria used by the most powerful body of the United Nations as a justification for intervening in armed conflicts around the world.

            The example of the ambiguous attitude in the world community to the climate agenda is the results of the climate summit in Glasgow, UK, known as the 26th Conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the third meeting of the parties to the Paris Agreement, held from October 31 to November 12, 2021.

            Despite advances in tackling greenhouse gas emissions reflected in the Glasgow climate summit agreement, the document lacks what many scientists believe is necessary to limit rising temperatures and counter catastrophic changes in weather patterns on our warming planet. Among other shortcomings in the agreement, there are great ambiguities about where the most vulnerable countries could find the huge investments needed to adapt to the new conditions.

            From the point of view of environmentalists, it is important that the government of the Russian Federation adopted the Strategy for the Development of Russia with Low Greenhouse Gas Emissions until 2050. The President of the Russian Federation announced that our country will achieve carbon neutrality no later than 2060. For the Russian fuel economy, this was not an easy decision, but it met the global trend, the requirements of the public and advanced business.

            The Federal Law “On Limiting Greenhouse Gas Emissions” was adopted. For the first time, appropriate legal terminology is introduced, enterprises report on emissions, and a system of projects to reduce them is created. Together with other organizations that increased  requirements for greenhouse gas emissions, prescribed by law Russia has promised to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 [12].

            The environmental responsibility of business is increasing. The ESG (environmental, social, governance), includeing  environmental openness and transparency, comes to one of the first places in the discussion of business policy and activities. The Russian government approved the criteria for green projects and initiatives in the field of sustainable development, developed jointly by the Ministry of Economic Development, the Bank of Russia issued «Recommendations on the disclosure of non-financial information by public joint-stock companies», which became a guide for assessing social and environmental risks not only for financial institutions. The President of the Russian Federation signed an Instruction on the development of a system of public non-financial reporting. According to the document, amendments should be made to the legislation aimed at developing a system of public non-financial reporting of legal entities no later than March 1, 2022.

             The Dasgupta Reiew, an authoritative report on the economics of biodiversity led by Prof. Sir Partha Dasgupta and released in February 2021, confirms that the wellbeing of every person, our livelihoods and economies, depend on the natural environment [13]. It also reminds us that humans are very much part of nature — a fact that we in our technological hubris often ignore — and our economies are embedded in nature, rather than external to it. However, our current development trajectory is entirely unsustainable, which is endangering the prosperity of both current and future generations.

            However, it is still difficult to call today’s agreements a full-fledged completed strategy — too large-scale task has to be solved and too different starting conditions for many countries. The complexity of the problem requires extensive study, detailed scenario analysis, and the involvement of specialists of various profiles [14].


            The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is intended as a blueprint for people, the planet, and prosperity. It recognizes the interconnectedness of economic, social, and environmental development and how none of the three can succeed in the long run if any one of them fails. The 2030 Agenda is titled “Transforming Our World”, and despite this almost universally accepted recognition, the world is facing crises on all three fronts. Economic and social crises as expressed in continued poverty, unemployment, exclusion, and constantly increasing inequality between and especially within countries are well recognized. Climate change has similarly gained visibility as the world has witnessed increasing weather anomalies, which are no longer affecting only the developing countries, as dramatically demonstrated by the unprecedented wildfires in Australia and the West Coast of the United States. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that if we do not limit the rise of global temperatures to 2°C above preindustrial levels, the world will face dire consequences [15].

            But a broader environmental crisis is unfolding that involves an unprecedented loss of ecosystems and biological species; places a heavy burden of chemical pollution into the oceans, land, water, and atmosphere; and poses a grave danger to human health. The COVID-19 pandemic that began in 2020 is an expression of this crisis and a direct reminder of how human health and ecosystem health are closely interlinked.

            We therefore need to transform how we interact with nature. We need transformations of economic and financial systems, of institutions, of how we measure development, of education and how we see ourselves in relation to the rest of the planet. Such transformational change is necessary and it should be possible, but it requires knowledge and it requires alternative visions of what can be done and how. Evaluation should and can play its part in making transformational change possible.

            In recent years, evaluation has emerged as an increasingly important function in determining the value of development interventions in terms of their relevance, impact, performance, effectiveness, efficiency, and sustainability. Evaluation is everywhere in public and private organizations. Many governments and government departments, notably in education, health, and social services, use evaluation to inform the approaches they take to address the issues within their mandate. Private organizations constantly evaluate their performance, whether they use the term evaluation or not. Most foundations, from the Gates Foundation to environmental actors such as the Moore Foundation, have incorporated regular evaluation, not only of their grantees but of the overall direction their funding streams take. Evaluation has been formalized as a function in most development agencies, both at the multilateral and bilateral side.

            Although much progress has been made, there are still areas where evaluation has not kept up with the times. Some evaluation practice remains mechanistic and inward looking, tinkering with details rather than engaging with the big picture in the rapidly changing world. Evaluation must change to respond to challenges of sustainable development and to become an active contributor to transformational change.


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