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Kremlin climate representative acknowledges heating effects in press conference following meeting with activists

Ruslan Edelgeriev, Vladimir Putin’s special representative for climate issues, acknowledged in a February 6 press conference that the effects of a rapidly changing climate are palpable in Russia. “In Yakutia, there are areas where the surface temperature has increased by five to eight degrees,” Edelgeriev said, according to Greenpeace Russia.

The global average temperature has increased by about one degree Celsius since the pre-industrial era; the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change considers it “necessary and even vital” to prevent a 1.5-degree global increase.

The Kremlin’s climate representative indicated that last summer’s wildfires in Siberia harmed human health and increased CO2 emissions, saying they should not be regarded as a natural process. He pointed to a need for more trees in the Russian taiga that could “compensate for industrial emissions” but did not acknowledge scientists’ demands for immediate, drastic reductions in fossil fuel extraction. Edelgeriev said the demand for Russian oil and gas is rising and pointed toward business interests on multiple occasions.

Among the dangers Russia faces due to a rapidly increasing global average temperature, the Kremlin official listed transportation and pipeline disruptions in northern regions as well as droughts, soil degradation, and decreased agricultural yields in the south. He suggested that it is time for Russians to stop arguing about the causes of climate change and start adapting to it.

The conference took place following a February 5 meeting between Edelgeriev and climate activists. Fridays For Future Russia, the country’s division of the youth movement inspired by Greta Thunberg, wrote on Telegram that the meeting included discussions of climate and ecological education, the influence of industry groups on climate policy, nuclear and fossil fuel energy sources, and the relationship between climate issues and human rights.

Fridays For Future said Edelgeriev hedged against cutting greenhouse gas emissions in Russia by arguing that “the U.S. and China are being a lot more cunning about it all.” The activists noted that Russia is the fourth-largest emitter in the world.

Moscow-based youth activist Rita Naumenko responded to Edelgeriev’s press conference and his private meeting on Instagram. She wrote that her hope for the Kremlin aide’s public announcements was only “to hear that people are thinking about the current situation in the administration” but that several points in the conference nonetheless made her “cringe” and reflected a “surface-level” view on climate issues. “The private meeting was more productive, in my view,” she concluded.

Scientists have warned that the climate crisis is likely to cause widespread social collapse within the lifetimes of current generations without an immediate, systemic shift away from fossil fuels. Russia’s own Environmental Ministry warned last year that disastrous environmental events are already taking lives in Russia at an escalating rate.

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