EU-Russian ecological cooperation needed despite and because of Covid crisis
Many thought that due to the Covid crisis ecology and the ecological movement were dead and the idea of EU-Russian ecological cooperation was. However, Greta is back, Friday for Future had a symbolic poster demonstration in front of the German parliament and Merkel declared that she wanted to raise the EU climate benchmarks and use the billions of EU and European rescue and stimulus packages for a new Green Deal. This also offers Russia the potential to get EU support and money despite the sanction regime i f it is willing to modernize its economy and to get in a green cooperation with Germany and the EU. And one should keep in mind that climate change and geopolitical struggles still exist and continue independent of the existing Covid crisis. Climate and climate change don´t care about Covid. They will catalyze the Covid effects and even on their own be more harmful and disastrous to world society than Covid.
Russian strategists including Putin have a very ambivalent relation to climate change. On the one side, Putin signed the Paris Climate Accord—different to Trump and Bolsonaro-, thinks about the consequences of the deforestation of the Russian East and the airing of methane, on the other side Putin as most Russian strategists have the vision of a Russian resource empire for the world economy. Ecological ideas are also very much underdeveloped in Russian think tanks, strategy forums and elites and the economic ton ideology of the former Soviet Union and the Western capitalist countries before the Club of Rome are still mainstream in Russia. Russia shall flood the world with gas. oil, wheat and other mineral resources to get cash. Energy diplomacy is still a central part of the material base oft he Russian economy and some strategists hope that in the case of global warming Russia could also become an agroempire due to expanding agricultural land and production as the other parts of the world will suffer from hunger.
The question is if this sort of traditional resource empire thinking can be replaced by a more modern ecological resource empire thinking which guarantees Russia an important place in the world and a material base. How can the traditional resource empire which is based on oil and gas exports overcome the contradiction with ecology, the Paris climate Acord and the idea of decarbonization?
The main interesting areas for ecological cooperation should be:
Stop the deforestation of the Siberian woods—keep the green lung of the planet and Eurasia alive!.
The Russian government has allowed China to chop off its woods as China itself stopped deforestation of its own forests. The Siberian woods are equally important for the world climate as the Amazonian rain forest- they are equally important the green lung for the planet and Eurasia. Therefore the EU could initiate a rescue program for the conservation oft he Siberian forests and sign with Russia an agreement for the regulated, sustainable and ecological export of the Russian timber industry which allows Russia to get an income and to save its forests.
Develop soft tourism in Russia
Most Europeans if they visit Russia, mostly go to urban centers like St. Petersberg and Moscow. EU-Russian ecological cooperation could develop soft tourism in the Russian East and by railway to enjoy the beauty of the Russian landscape, including the Siberian forests. Another idea would be to built new datchas for tourists or to rent them part-time to European tourists, There are about 40 million Russians and their families who have a datcha and they could part-time rent them to European tourists to have a Russian nature experience or you built new tourist datchas and romantic log houses for ecological sustainable soft tourism. It would also be a great chance to meet Russians and to deepen the intercultural understanding between European and Russian people.
Decarbonization Russia is very dependent on oil and gas exports. But renewable energies will become more important. Some strategists hope that if they boycott renewable energies and support Trump or anti-ecological parties or organizations, they could stop this trend. This is unrealistic. Renewable energies have already a cost advantage and if Trump, Russia, Saudi Arabia want to stop this trend then they have to sell their oil and gas at such a low price, that there won´t be any state or private revenues left. Russia just experiences this in the oil price war between Trump- USA, OPEC and Russia. On the other side, there is not the absolute decision between carbon- and non-carbon economies. Oil and gas will be reduced, but for a foreseeable future still be part of the energy mix. As Prof. Rahr, EU adviser to Gazprom proposed, Russian carbons could be used for the production of hydrogen technology. However, it would be a bad idea if Russia for the production of hydrogen would burn gas and raise CO2 emissions. Hydrogen technology only makes sense if its energy base are renewable energies.
Therefore it would be better if the EU invests in clean gas technology, tries to find out if in Russia there could be built enough solar and wind parks for the hydrogen technology.
Support EU-Russian start ups and technology leaders
The EU should support Russian startups and technology leaders in sectors that are important for the green footprint. Modern traffic systems, energy-saving houses, infrastructure, city planning, and architecture, development of railways and green mobility, etc.
Agricultural cooperation Many strategists do not only think of Russia as a carbon resource empire, but also of an agroempire. They don´t care about ecology, have a very narrow understanding of its meaning, and limit ecological cooperation to agricultural cooperation. They have the shortsighted, optimistic point of view that global warming will boost agricultural land and production in Russia, while the rest of the world needs more food from Russia. Thereby Russia as an agricultural resource empire could also raise its role in the coming new multipolar world order and be the wheat and food chamber of the world. However, this might be the case for a decade, but if global warming reaches a certain (tipping) point, Russia will also suffer enormous droughts and the vision of the agroempire is finished in the midterm. President Putin also referred to the dramatic consequences of global warming for permafrozen areas for Russia and the rest of the world in his State oft the Union address. He seems to have a clearer idea than some of his think tanks and strategists.
However, Russia can be a big agricultural supplier and the EU should support ecological sustainable agricultural cooperation.
Among these projects one would also be very important:
Russia also is not yet prepared for the next agricultural revolution from Silicon Valley: Artificial meat. In this area now flow more investments than in artificial intelligence and it could be the solution to the world food crisis and the eco-crisis, which is why such investment has such a priority in Silicon Valley. Although if you think of Silicon Valley you are thinking of digitization, quantum computers, microchips, the Internet of Things, Industry 4.0, autonomous driving, artificial intelligence and computer algorithms, but nanotechnology, and biotechnology are leading the way, as evidenced in the writings of Ray Kurzweil and his book „Singularity“ that envisions a posthuman fusion of man with machine and biotechnology and genetic engineering. A lot of science fiction, and a lot of spinning, a lot is being tested, but the main investments of the Silicon Valley are going into the technology of the artificial meat, and that is already feasible and is already produced, albeit not yet in mass production.
Before trying to compensate for the global protein supply of humanity by insect food, there is now an innovation: artificial meat. Invitro meat. No science fiction: Meat that is already bred from meat cells today and in the future in mass production in silos, by means of 3d printers or what will exist in the future.No genetic engineering, but in the broadest sense reproduction technology. It does not breed a whole chicken, but only the chicken wing, does not fatten a whole goose but only breeds the goose liver, etc. No science fiction, but is already done and the prices fall rapidly. No more factory farming, no more destruction of the rainforests and deforestation, no more waste that pollutes the groundwater, no more cruelty to animals and no more animal transports, no chick shredding, no more vegetarianism and veganism as the only way out, no more ecological disaster and the organic farmers, the bio farmers are no longer the good guys. While vegetarians and vegans criticize this because the change is happening technologically and from the outside and not from the inside by a change in consciousness and thinking, David Precht sees here rather the problem that the companies have the patents on the manufacturing processes and monopolize the production chain as Montesano monopolizes seed.
Besides other agricultural cooperation, the EU and Russia should find out if the disruptive agricultural technology for the production of artificial meat is feasible and in the interest of both sides.
Waste and sewage management The Russian waste management including the recycling idea is still very underdeveloped in Russia. This could be the next field for cooperation.
Save the Arctic
The geopolitical struggle about the Arctic has just started. Climate change leads to the new situation that shipping routes become ice-free, oil, gas and mineral resources, fishing and maritime resources could be exploited on a greater scale. The USA, the EU, Russia and China want more influence in the development of the Arctic, China has even an official development plan for the Arctic, while the USA wants to give Greenland money for its resources and military bases, sends the first military ships in the Barent Sea, informs Russia about this as a signal that it demands its sphere of influence in the Arctic and doesn’t want to come in a conflict with Russia. However, the EU should also develop its development plan for the Arctic and to evaluate the potentials for EU-Russian cooperation in the Arctic. The EU should support all Russian initiatives which guarantee that the Arctic doesn´t become a polluted, overfished and ecological disastrous region.
The EU and Russia planned a climate change conference in Moscow before the Covid crisis which has been postponed and might be organized virtually in the future. Time to make up the mind for new ideas which could start an interesting discussion for both sides.