America’s foreign Entanglement
US-Russia Environmental Engagement Shrinks
American and Russian scientists believe that there are fewer international projects
The Voice of America Russian Service correspondent spoke with American and Russian environmentalists about what is really happening with Russian-American cooperation in the field of environmental protection.
How the law on “foreign agents” affects environmental projects, how to work with Russia in the field of ecology, who protects the polar bear, and why oil companies no longer go to the Arctic.
Georgy Safonov, director of the Center for Environmental Conservation and Natural Resources, a member of the working group on the Kyoto Protocol under the Ecology Committee of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, explains that both the United States and the European Union simply do not understand how to work with Russia on environmental issues. He details how environmental cooperation with the United States has evolved and where it came to be..
“We had active cooperation with America on ecology in the 1990s,” says Safonov. – Then there were many different programs and ministries, and interuniversity, and with the participation of leading American research centers. We also worked on related topics, for example, throughout the country they tried to create energy efficiency centers. But in 1999, the responsible federal agency for ecology disappeared, and its functions were “smeared” across various departments. It became simply unclear with whom to work “.
Safonov shows that international organizations and individual countries “agree among themselves, with whom and in what directions to work.” So, by the beginning of the 2000s, most of the environmental projects were taken over not by America, but by the European Union. But by the mid-2000s, “the European Union came to the conclusion that it is completely unclear how to work with Russia on the environment,” says the ecologist..
“Everything else was extremely scanty. During the Bush period, the entire ecology was “pushed aside” both by the United States and by Russia. ” Safonov argues that, with the exception of highly specialized projects (for example, the destruction of chemical weapons), as well as projects in the Arctic, cooperation between Russia and the United States has almost ceased..
“To date, there are virtually no ways of cooperation between our countries,” Safonov says. – Everything is aggravated by the fact that Russia no longer has any obligations. Neither international nor domestic “.
We are talking about Russia’s decision to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol agreement from 2013.
Despite the negative conclusion, Safonov believes that the potential for US-Russia cooperation is enormous. “Americans have the finest techniques, methods, research practices. There, all this is moving forward, and work is proceeding on a large scale. But in our country all this happens only due to the enthusiasm of individual scientists and institutes “.
“If we talk about the prospects, then let’s look together: ecology is simply not a priority now for Russia,” sums up the ecologist.
International environmental consultant Michael Brody, who has been working in Russia and the CIS countries for many years, told the Voice of America correspondent about the decrease in the number of international projects in Russia..
“One of the consequences of the process that is underway is the closure of USAID,” says Brody. – But not only that. Now the International Science and Technology Center is also closing. And these are very important organizations that funded many scientific projects, many of which were related to the environment. I myself worked according to their programs “.
Recall that USAID curtailed its activities in Russia shortly after the adoption of the law on “foreign agents” – non-profit organizations that are engaged in political activity and have foreign sources of funding..
The law on NGOs does not include protection of flora and fauna in the concept of political activity. However, ecologists fear that many other areas of environmental work, such as combating environmental pollution, climate change and others, may become a reason for assigning the organization the status of a “foreign agent”.
Michael Brodie continues to work with several universities in Russia. “We have the potential for cooperation, but nothing has yet been decided for the end,” he notes. Brodie lists some projects, most often personal initiatives of university representatives. Cooperation proposals came from the Higher School of Economics, Kazan State Medical University and Altai State University.
Who needs the Arctic?
The most striking example of multilateral environmental cooperation with the participation of Russia today is the Arctic. Although only WWF-Russia has declared 2012 the Year of the Arctic, work here takes place between Russia, the USA, Canada, Denmark, Norway and other countries..
WWF-Russia Director Igor Chestin at a press conference on the environmental results of the year says that the outgoing year leaves environmentalists with both good news and bad news. The good news is that “the leading oil companies have slowed down their thoughtless penetration into the Arctic.”.
“Gazprom stopped its work at the Prirazlomnaya station. The largest companies TNK BP and SHELL announced plans to slow down drilling. Total stated that oil companies are simply not ready to work in the Arctic. ” Chestin was frankly glad that such a serious statement was made not only from environmental organizations, but also from the business itself..
The WWF-Russia director recalled that today no company has technologies to eliminate oil in the event of an oil spill under the ice. He spoke about a new bill that establishes 100% financial responsibility of the company for liquidation of damage in the event of a disaster. The bill was introduced to the State Duma and passed last week. A few days later, this law was adopted by the Federation Council.
The bad news of the outgoing year is a new minimum record. The area of summer ice in the Arctic showed the smallest size in the entire history of observations.
It is worth noting that in 2011, the Arctic countries adopted the first legally binding agreement on an immediate response in the event of a disaster in the region. At the request of the Voice of America Russian Service correspondent, Igor Chestin spoke about the continuation of this work. “The work on the second section of the agreement is now being completed. By the way, the chairman of the working group is a representative of Russia. The agreement on prevention and response to possible oil spills is being comprehensively discussed “.
Chestin believes that international standards can grow out of new agreements: “If all Arctic countries use the same standards, this will be a big step forward.”.
Russia and the USA – Together for the Environment
In addition to the Arctic, at the government level, Russia is cooperating with the United States on a number of other projects. Several new agreements were made this year.
Thus, at the APEC Summit in September, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed a memorandum of cooperation in Antarctica.
Earlier, in July, at a meeting of APEC ministers in Khabarovsk, the issue of creating a Beringia reserve in northern Russia was discussed, which would border the Bering Land Bridge National Park in the United States and would be the first Russian-American protected area. For the first time in 20 years of the existence of the reserve project in Chukotka and Alaska, the Russian side reviewed the document and conducted a state ecological expertise, which, as a result, received a positive conclusion.