Climate protection: Towards a selective ecological coooperation between the US, EU and Russia?
US climate special envoy Kerry proposed a “selective cooperation”with Russia, especially for climate protection. Now Germany issued a non-paper for the EU which also supports this idea of a selective cooperation with Russia (see below). Global Review and the Vicepresident of the Club of Rome Germany, Frithjof Finkbeiner already wrote a programmatic paper for a EU-Russian ecological cooperation which was published on May 2020 at the think tank of the Russian foreign ministery Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC). At first this is a selective cooperation like START, but maybe this could be also a midterm to longterm door opener to less tense relations with Russia.
It is also interesting what part-time Putin and Gazprom adviser and Russia expert Dr. Rahr answered in out latest Global Review interview with him.
On the on side, that a Green Deal between the US, Russia and China was very important and that the EU might not be that decisive:
Global Review: Putin seems to be sticking to the resource empire, while the EU and now the Biden government want a new New Green Deal and a climate-neutral EU by 2050. Especially since there will probably be a black-green government after the federal elections in 2021. While Europe has no oil and gas except for the UK and Norway, the US has become the leading fracking and oil and gas export nation. Are the interests of Russia and OPEC possibly closer to US interests than with the EU despite all the Biden administration’s verbal commitments to renewable energies and a New Green Deal?
Alexander Rahr: First of all: You are repeating for the second time that you are expecting a new black-green government in autumn. I, on the other hand, expect a traffic light coalition: CDU / CSU-SPD-FDP. There are simply too great differences between the CDU and the Greens. The Greens may become the second largest party, but it will be enough for another governing coalition. The SPD leaders are suspiciously silent on the question of government participation after the federal elections. A Green Deal between the big countries USA, Russia and China is more productive than the big climate-neutral promises of the EU. The EU cannot tackle climate and environmental protection on its own. Only if the “big ones” take the initiative can the world be saved from dangerous warming in the long term.
On the other side, the interest also to come to an EU-Russia ecological cooperation, if it is wanted:
Global Review: What are the chances for an ecological cooperation between the EU and Russia from the reforestation of the Siberian forests, development of soft dacha tourism, conversion to methanol and hydrotechnology, support of cooperation with Russian start-ups and companies in the fields of green and smart Cities, sustainable agricultural cooperation including the consideration of artificial meat and a protection agreement for the Arctic? Is a New Green Deal between Russia and the EU and with other great powers and states possible?
Alexander Rahr: The answer to these questions is clearly yes. I think organizations like the Club of Rome, which deals with questions about the future, but also other institutions and NGOs should work out a useful concept on how to create a common, green, ecological and one day climate-neutral area from Lisbon to Vladivostok. Such a concept, which also includes a hydrogen cooperation instead of a gas alliance, will generate enthusiasm. Russia’s forests and steppes are even more important to us than the Amazon forests in America. I ask myself in all seriousness why politicians in this country don’t come up with the idea of a Green Deal with Russia. Unfortunately, the Greens are far too stubborn in their rejection of Russia. The CDU chairman Armin Laschet, should he one day become Merkel’s successor, would – I am sure – take on this problem immediately.“
As a possible midterm to longterm perspective he proposes some potential areas of cooperation:
Global Review: There may be a compromise on the Nord Stream II question. Nord Stream II will be completed and put into operation when a West Stream for the USA is established on the other side across the Atlantic to Western Europe. But if this point of contention between the US, the EU and Russia were resolved, how will relations between the West and Russia develop? Both sides want to extend the START agreement, but which areas will remain and where are possible solutions and where not?
Alexander Rahr: Oh, I know a lot of areas where cooperation, even alliances, are possible. I can name several possible fields of cooperation: Green Deal, as a common fight against environmental and climate pollution. Rebuilding the Middle East, fighting Islamism that threatens everyone in the South. Russia as a bridge between Europe and Asia – the key word is connectivity. Non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Joint space exploration. And if you want: contain China.“
At least there are two factions in the US administration, the Pentagon and the US military. One faction perceives Russia and China both as the most important enemies you have to fight both at the same time, while the other faction thinks that China is the top enemy, main competitor and rival, while Russia is a not that an important enemy and more comparable to North Korea, Iran and the Islamic State like General Milley or General Berger who wants to downgrade the Russian threat or the Longer Telegramm of the Atlantic Council which even think s about an comprehensive and not selective cooperation with Russia to contain China- “whether we like it or not”. Similar to Trump before who pushed an anti-Chinese G 11 which was a more illusionary approach. However, it is also up to Moscow to give signals that it is interested in less tense relations.
However, even if this midterm or longterm cooperation should not happen, climate protection as arms controll treaties are to the mutual benefit for both sides and the world. It´s worth a try. However, it is much telling that the Green Party rejected this idea, while you could think that ecological cooperation and climate protection was one of their most fundamental interests.
“Germany calls for greater co-operation with Russia in a controversial paper ahead of EU ministers‘ meeting
By Ben Aris in Berlin March 8, 2021
Germany has made a controversial call on its western allies for greater co-operation with Russia on climate change and to repair frayed relations at a time when the US is considering upping sanctions and targeting Russia’s sovereign debt.
The EU should develop a “concrete and detailed strategy” on global warming and “selectively engage” Russia on these issues, the German government said in a document that will be presented to the EU during a general meeting on March 22, the Financial Times reported on March 7.
The EU remains divided over Russia as its leading companies remain heavily invested in the country, which is also one of the block’s major trading partners.
If the so-called nuclear option of banning US investors from buying and holding Russian debt – both its Eurobonds and the Russian Ministry of Finance ruble-denominated OFZ treasury bills – is adopted, then Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has made it clear the response by the Kremlin will be extreme.
Lavrov laid out new rules of the game in a speech in February and made it clear that Russia would no longer tolerate sanctions that “damage the economy.” The Kremlin has already said that it would regard sanctions on its debt as an act of economic war and the result could lead to something that look very much like a new Cold War. Until now despite the prickly relations the Kremlin has been willing to engage in dialogue over many international issues such as climate change, and the chaos in Syria and Libya, albeit these co-operation efforts are still difficult.
As bne IntelliNews has argued elsewhere, the EU is a lot softer on Russia than Washington due to its business ties and has already tried to play down tensions that erupted following The European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell’s trip to Moscow by imposing very light sanctions on Russia in February provoked by a court decision tosentence opposition activist Alexey Navalny to 2,8 years in jail on February 2.
The policy document calling on the EU to go soft on Russia highlights the deepening divisions within the EU on what to do about Russia. In the first round of sanctions imposed by the Biden administration, the US was careful to co-ordinate with Brussels and the santcions the US imposed in March mirrored those imposed by Europe. But that may not last.
Europe is becoming increasingly divided over which direction to go in. Berlin and Paris have both attempted to engage with Russia and bring it to the negotiating table. Other countries such as Italy, Hungary and Serbia openly support deepening co-operation with Russia and quickly turned to Moscow for supplies of its Sputnik V vaccine. And another group, comprising Poland and the Baltic states, is openly hostile to Russia.
“While a fundamental change in Russia’s foreign policy appears unrealistic in the short term, managing our challenging relations with Russia must remain a key foreign policy priority for the European Union,” the document said, as cited by the Financial Times.
“At the same time, the EU has to forcefully seize opportunities to push Russia towards taking more responsibility for global [problems] such as security, conflict resolution, climate, environment, health, trade or migration.”
The document is unsigned and labelled a “non-paper”, which is the protocol for a policy proposal to the EU, which the government is not formally committed to.
While the paper lists Russian interference in politics and human rights and civil society abuses, it also says Russia has an “indispensable” role in helping to solve various global policy problems. It concluded that the EU has a “vital interest” in stable and predictable relations with Russia.
Borrell went to Moscow with this agenda in February, where he visibly pulled his punches at a meeting with Lavrov and downplayed the arrest and jailing of Navalny, only to be humiliated after Lavrov chose to expel three EU diplomats while sitting across the table from Borrell.
However, it seems that even this diplomatic slap in the face has not led to a hardening of the EU’s line. It even suggests that it is taking Lavrov’s threat seriously off break off diplomatic relations with the EU, should the West continue its sanctions policy on Russia. While Washington will be less inclined to hold off on sanctions, the Kremlin is presumably calculating that US President Joe Biden’s desire to repair trans-Atlantic relations and his commitment to co-ordinate policy on Russia with Brussels can be used as a lever to contain US sanctions too.
The German paper singled out co-operation with Russia on climate change in particular, which is a truly global issue.
“While so far not a policy priority for Russia, environmental disasters and climate change effects felt in its territory become increasingly relevant for Russia’s population and thus for the government,” the document says, reports the FT.
Global Review on RIAC
EU-Russian ecological cooperation needed despite and because of the Covid crisis
May 18, 2020
Authors: Ralf Ostner (Global Review), Frithjof Finkbeiner (Member Club of Rome, Desert Tech, Plant for the Planet)
Many thought that due to the Covid crisis ecology and the ecological movement was dead and the idea of an EU-Russian ecological cooperation. Greta is back and still alive despite Covid. However Fridays for Future and the ecological movement is much more than Greta. The Youth 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 European Green Deal. This also offers Russia the potential to get EU support and money despite the sanction regime if 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 crisis and geopolitical struggles still exist and continue independent of the existing Covid crisis. The climate does not care about Covid.. They will catalyze the Covid effects and even on their own be more harmful and disastrous to world society than Covid.
Moreover, more and more people understand that climate and biodiversity are two sides of the same coin. The climate crisis puts many species under massive stress. Species extinction, population growth, urbanization, destruction of nature and climate crisis promote zoonosis.
The corona crisis has shaken up many people around the world with some changes in behavior as digital meetings became mainstream instead of physical meetings, we must not delude ourselves: After the corona crisis, we will all very quickly return to the global plundering system in order to secure our prosperity, also in Germany and Europe.
Russian strategists including Putin have a very ambivalent relation to climate crisis. On the one side Putin signed the Paris Climate Accord—different to Trump and Bolsonaro -, thinks about the consequences of the frost melt 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, timber and other mineral resources to get cash. Energy diplomacy is still a central part of the material base of the 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 Accord and the idea of decarbonisation?
The main interesting areas for an 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 of the 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.
Forest Preservation and Reforestation
The most dangerous thing about global warming are the tipping points. If the tipping points of the climate crisis are exceeded, i.e. if the earth heats up by more than 2°C, the climate crisis becomes independent. It can no longer be stopped and becomes a catastrophe.
And this is where the trees come into play: they absorb CO2 and thus slow down global warming. We will not reach the tipping points so quickly and we can do everything we can to prevent it.
An additional 1,000 billion trees annually bind 10 billion tons of CO2, or a quarter of our current CO2 emissions. So if we plant these additional trees and protect our existing trees, we gain time. Without these trees, in 26 years we will have used up the CO2 budget of 1,100 billion tonnes that we have left to maintain the 2°C limit.
We need the extra time so that we can convert the world to methanol economy, i.e. climate-neutral fuels, and desert power. And we’ve wasted way too much time doing nothing already. Trees give us back some of this time by binding CO2 from the atmosphere and thus keeping the earth below the critical 2°C limit.
If we harvest the trees in time before they rot and thus before CO2 is released, the “C”, the carbon, remains stored in the wood. At the same place we can plant new trees and thus new storehouses. Go for Climate visits wooden houses as they are built in Vienna and Oslo with more than 80 m height. The carbon remains bound in them for decades. In addition – and this is even more important for the climate – every wooden house avoids reinforced concrete, which is responsible for 11% of global CO2 emissions.
Wood fibre can also replace plastic soon. Today there are already plastic toys made of wood fibre, hopefully soon PET bottles as well.
In addition to forestry and the use of wood, “proper” agriculture is also of great importance. Here, too, the “C”, the carbon, can be stored in the soil.
Wood and wood elements from building construction that are no longer used, as well as wood waste from forestry, should no longer be burned to CO2, but used to produce biochar. The “C” remains stored in the biochar and can thus be stored in the agricultural soil. This also enriches the soil with nutrients and the new trees and fruits grow faster, which will also contribute to sustainable agriculture – such as the fertile Terra Preta in the Amazon basin.
Agriculture will therefore become an ally in the fight against climate change if it is designed in such a way that soils become carbon stores.
Like forestry, agriculture also offers the potential to create many millions of jobs.
Solutions such as afforestation and “real” agriculture are part of initiatives such as the Bonn Challenge and AFR100 in the context of landscape restoration. These two initiatives alone set the goal of rebuilding 350 million hectares of degraded land by 2030.
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 of European and Russian people.
Russia is very dependent on oil and gas exports. Some strategists hope that if they boycott renewable energies and support Trump or anti-ecological parties or organisations, they could stop this trend. This is unrealistic. The 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 will not 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 the CO2 emissions. Hydrogen technology only makes sense if its energy base are renewable energies.
With the clean and unlimited solar power from the desert we can produce hydrogen from water and combine it with CO2 from the air to methanol. Methanol stores solar electricity with an energy density that is 50 times higher than that of a battery. And it has another decisive advantage: it does not need any routes and can be transported just as easily today as its fossil predecessors, e.g. in tankers. Methanol is the basis for clean kerosene, petrol and diesel, or “e-fuel” for short. We can immediately add the clean kerosene to the fossil aviation fuel in order to gradually replace it completely. E-Fuels can operate existing combustion engines in a climate-neutral way – methanol economy. The oil companies have other plans: over 7% of the world’s oil and gas reserves are in Africa and the oil companies plan to increase their investments in oil and gas production there tenfold by 2030 in order to increase production accordingly.
The dependence on insecure regimes that supply us with fossil fuels today will be reduced, because any country with a desert can become an energy-exporting country in the future. Clean energy production in the deserts of the earth is therefore probably the largest peace-building measure.
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 start ups and technology leaders in sectors which are important for the green foot print. Modern traffic systems, energy saving houses, infrastructure, city planning and architecture.,development of railways and green mobility, etc.
Many strategist do not only think of Russia as a carbon resource empire, but also of an agro empire. They do not 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 the 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 agro empire is finished in the midterm. President Putin also referred to the dramatic consequences of global warming for perma frozen areas for Russia and the rest of the world in his State of 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 be also be very important:Russia also is not yet prepared for the next agricultural revolution from the Silicon Valley: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 still exists .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 a 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 Artic, while the USA wants to give Greenland money for its resources and military bases, sends the first military ships in the Barents Sea, informs Russia bout this as signal that it demands its sphere of influence in the Arctic and does not 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 a EU-Russian cooperation in the Arctic. The EU should support all Russian initiatives which focus 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 as this article which could start an interesting discussion for both sides.