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Activists demand Moscow lower greenhouse gas emissions in Russia’s first climate lawsuit
A group of environmental activists have filed a lawsuit in the Russian Supreme Court demanding the revision of a presidential order and a government decree concerning the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the country. The filing marks the first climate change-related lawsuit against the Russian government.
The plaintiffs are demanding the invalidation of a provision in the presidential order that sets Russia's greenhouse gas emissions target for 2030 at 70 percent of 1990 levels. Activists believe the 2030 target should be no higher than 31 percent of their levels in 1990.
In addition, the environmentalists are asking the court to rescind a decree from the Russian government that requires Russia to lower greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent of their 1990 levels by 2050. The activists want the 2050 target to be set at 5 percent of 1990 levels.
The proposed new targets were calculated using a model created by the Climate Action Tracker, an independent project created by climate scientists. According to the activists, the new targets are the ones Russia must reach in order to fulfill its obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement.
The lawsuit names 20 plaintiffs, 18 of whom are individuals involved in the Fridays for Future movement founded by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, including well-known Russian climate activist Arshak Makichyan. The other two plaintiffs are the organizations Ecodefense! and the Moscow Helsinki Group.
The suit lays out how climate change affects Russia directly. “While the global climate has experienced about one degree [Celsius] of warming over the last 50 years, Russia has experienced 2.5 degrees. In the future, this proportion will either continue or become even more extreme,” write the activists.
Climate change poses a threat to human health and human life, causes internal migration, and threatens food security and infrastructure.
The plaintiffs also note that Russia is a world leader in greenhouse gas emissions. They describe the country’s investment in the fight against climate change so far as “extremely insufficient.”
The lawsuit is based on a report from Mark Chernaik, a scientist at the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide. Chernaik prepared the report at the request of lawyers Daryana Gryaznova, Grigory Vaipan, and Alexandra Suchkova.
According to the report, a heat wave that struck Russia in 2010 was responsible for over 50,000 premature deaths. In addition, it says, climate change has caused forest fires and forest loss as pests have moved north due to rising temperatures. A third consequence is the melting of permafrost, which threatens the sustainability of buildings and infrastructure, and can also cause disease outbreaks (like the 2016 anthrax outbreak in western Siberia).
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