Combatting climate change together - Russia and Germany will join forces
One of the main topics of this year’s Russian-German Raw Materials Dialogue was cooperation prospects for the two countries, as they have been seeking for the ways to contribute to environmentally sustainable development and fight against the global warming.
The 12th annual conference was held at Saint-Petersburg Mining University. Scientists, businessmen and politicians came to St. Petersburg to discuss how Russia and Germany can solve the most pressing issues, as well as what are the development prospects for the future. The final panel discussion of the Forum was devoted to climate change. In particular, science-industry cooperation was discussed, as reaching economic prosperity and at the same time minimising environmental damage is highly unlikely if there is no linkage between science and business.
Ludwig Stroink, Head of International Affairs Office at Helmholtz Centre Potsdam, notes that - according to the UN progress report - the targets set in the Paris Agreement are yet to be delivered. The humanity has not managed, as of yet, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If no drastic changes happen in the foreseeable future, by the middle of this century the average global temperature will have risen by 2 degrees, compared to pre-industrial times. A number of experts suppose that as an outcome, climate change will no longer be controlled and its process will become irreversible; people will be dying of hunger, wars will arise, and civilisation will slowly come to its extinction.
According to Ludwig Stroink, ”We are in dire need of reducing the burden on the environment. However, we are facing enormous challenges: the tasks ahead of us have to be concretised, we also have to speed up research studies that will prove useful for sustainable development purposes. In connection with this, interaction with academic communities of Russia and - in particular - of St. Petersburg becomes of significant importance."
As noted by Grigory Trubnikov, First Deputy Minister of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation, climate issue had become the driver shaping the discussions of development strategies both in Russia and Germany. At the same time, research activities targeted at improving environmental efficiency are one of the most vital tasks Russian science should work on.
As Grigory Trubnikov said, ”The Ministers of Education of our countries have signed a cooperation agreement, in which priority development fields are stated. These growth areas will be in force for the next 10 years, the most important of them are the establishment and introduction of large research hubs, academic exchange, implementation of innovations. Scientific research done by scientists from Freiberg University of Mining and Technology and St. Petersburg Mining University - including studies in the field of environmental protection - is an example of how a joint research can lead to some real solutions, required by industries and businesses.”
German ecologists and activists accuse local authorities of not making enough efforts to reach the climate protection targets. On the contrary, industrial entities are concerned about rapid changes in the energy agenda. Their representatives keep claiming that the result of this fast-paced shift would be the higher prices on goods for direct consumption and lowered energy security.
Vladimir Litvinenko, Rector of the Mining University and Co-chairman of the Russian-German Raw Materials Dialogue, added ”We must find a reasonable balance between the adoption of environmental laws and the need for economic development. There is no doubt that every effort should be made to minimise the impact on ecosystems, but it is also necessary to understand that energy sustainability is the best guarantee that living standards all over the world will be constantly increasing.”
Mr. Litvinenko also paid attention to the fact that some environmental projects of Western countries, which should in theory contribute to combatting climate change, are in fact illusionary, to say the least. For example, to generate energy needed to charge electric cars, burning fossil fuels on the TPP is required. This way, transition from internal-combustion engines to battery-powered vehicles does not lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions, only the emissions’ location gets changed. The Rector of the Mining University also pointed to a number of acute issues ahead of Russia, resolving which would generally improve the country’s environmental situation and result in a significant contribution to the achievement of the targets set in the Paris Agreement. One notable example is the waste management reform that is currently taking place in Russia.
The problem of waste management was discussed at one of the panel discussions of the Forum, but probably the most significant outcome of the conference was the signing of an agreement regarding integration of the Institute of Energy Process Engineering and Chemical Engineering at Freiberg University of Mining and Technology into the structure of the International Competence Centre for Mining-Engineering Education under the auspices of UNESCO. The institute in question has, therefore, now become an official partner of the Competence Centre.