Nature protection and preservation should become an important component of the Russian national idea, its mission for itself and the world, and an important element of its international identity. International cooperation in nature protection should become Russia’s important positive contribution to global development and part of its international attractiveness and authority.
Current trends in the development of international relations and Russia’s national peculiarities, its competitive advantages, and the challenges it is facing at home and abroad require drafting and implementing a new domestic and foreign policy in environmental protection, and making it one of the country’s national and foreign policy priorities.
Environmental problems are becoming a priority in international relations, along with international security and economic development. The coronavirus epidemic has only boosted this trend. The European Green Deal, which aims to achieve carbon neutrality in the European Union by 2050, has been proclaimed one of its main strategic projects in the coming decades. Even if this ambitious initiative is not fully implemented as intended, it is still considered a way to lead the EU out of its current economic crisis, and strengthen its competitive position for the foreseeable future. In the United States, the Joe Biden administration places climate issues among key domestic and foreign policy priorities, and seeks to gain leading positions on the climate agenda as an important way to restore American “global leadership” in general. The U.S. may announce the goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 already at the start of Biden’s presidency. China has recently also begun to play an important role on the global environmental and climate agenda and announced plans to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. Environmental protection and climate change occupy a prominent place in the activities of key global governance institutions, including the G20 and BRICS.
The environmental and climate agenda has both consolidating and dividing potential. On the one hand, it can become one of the few factors capable of uniting different―in terms of values, political and economic development models, level of economic development, foreign policy orientation―countries and to foster dialogue and cooperation between them even if their relations with each other are not friendly.
On the other hand, climate and environmental issues are becoming an increasingly important element―both an instrument and a factor―of such rivalry. The approaches to climate change that Western countries, especially the EU, are promoting today are largely discriminatory, perpetuate Western economic dominance and the backwardness of developing countries, and therefore only exacerbate international rivalry. The EU’s Green Deal, in particular, may further aggravate Russia-EU relations and contribute to the rise of protectionism against European goods.
For the time being, Russia’s participation in the struggle for the environmental and climate agenda does not correspond to its objective potential. Russia’s current environmental policy is not active enough and does not fully meet the challenges of the times, in particular, the ever-growing importance of the environment in the world economy and international relations, its transformation into a factor of competition, and the blending of the environmental, economic and technological agendas.
This report was authored by a team of experts from the NRU-HSE Faculty of World Economy and International Relations under the direction of Sergei A. Karaganov. It is based on the results of three situational analyses held under the auspices of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs with support from the Roscongress Foundation, State Duma Committee on International Affairs, the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, and Russia in Global Affairs journal.