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Combating or Cultivating Climate Change? Russia's Approach to Global Warming as an Obstacle to EU Environmental Pioneering

Niels Smeets

Although snowless New Year celebrations in 2014 shocked the inhabitants of European Russia, and the cultural capital, Saint-Petersburg, will be most likely lost to the sea if global warming persists, climate change remains largely limited to political discourse. The latest redaction of the energy strategy until 2030 focuses on energy efficiency and savings not because of ecological concerns but because of hoped economic windfall in times of crises. Tellingly, the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions is only mentioned 7 times in the comprehensive 2009 energy strategy. Although Russia signed the Kyoto protocol, it has unilaterally decided not to take on new targets in the second commitment period. The explanation of this stepmotherly treatment of the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions might be that political reasoning builds on the belief that global warming would yield serious economic advantages. The melting of the ice caps would not only open up the arctic, but also the Northern Sea Route, potentially generating transit revenues from the Chinese fleet which is looking for alternative routes to Europe. Moreover, the disappearance of permafrost would facilitate the extraction of East Siberia's vast energy resources.Although actual consequences of climate change are far from clear, this belief in positive climate change effects gravely inhibits the EU's ambition to engage Russia in taking up new commitments in reducing greenhouse emissions. A policy and discourse analysis of Russian primary and secondary documents attempts to assess the influence of this biased Russian view as an obstacle to EU efforts in drawing Russia into new climate commitments.



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