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The Western world must engage in an equal dialogue with Russia

© Форпост Северо-Запад / Павел Долганов

The level of political relations between our country and the Western world has dropped almost to a critical point. Sanctions, a lack of constructive dialogue and insulting remarks about our head of state seem to make a return to mutually respectful discussion less and less realistic. Is this really the most important matter right now? After all, apart from politics, there is also culture, science and, of course, economics...

The IV Russian-British Raw Materials Dialogue has just ended, with delegates traditionally consisting of leading industrialists, scientists and energy experts. This platform differs from many others in that we are not being talked to as a second-rate power. The prerequisite for participation, starting from the very first forum, is an equal conversation between professionals. People who understand perfectly well that the development of raw materials and energy resources is the basis of any country's sovereignty.

This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the conference was held in an online format. What did it show and what were its results? The most important thing, in my view, is that both sides demonstrated clearly: despite the crisis in political relations between states and some differences of opinion, we do not consider each other irreconcilable antagonists or, even more so, enemies.

On the contrary, both we and our foreign partners have expressed a genuine interest in developing cooperation, primarily in areas such as carbon capture and recycling technologies, as well as reducing the anthropogenic impact on ecosystems from mining operations.

This is very important because the importance of raw materials will not diminish in the future. Yes, humanity is striving to move away from certain resources that pollute the environment, such as coal. But the consumption of other raw materials - copper, aluminium, cobalt, lithium - will, on the contrary, increase. There is no doubt about that, because they are indispensable, among other things, for the production of renewable energy sources and electric cars. This means we need to think together about how to dispose of the waste generated at each stage of the production cycle, from extraction to consumption.

Naturally, we also talked about the energy transition. As you know, our positions on this issue are not quite the same. Many Western partners, including the British, believe that the bulk of the so-called climate investment should go into the production of solar panels and wind turbines. Furthermore, they believe that hydrogen could, in the foreseeable future, become the global energy resource to replace natural gas.

In our view, these expectations are likely to be exaggerated. First of all, because in case the transition to a new energy paradigm intensifies, the global economy will definitely face a significant reduction in profitability. This will happen, in particular, due to the lack of affordable technologies for storing the energy generated by renewables, as well as difficulties in storing and transporting hydrogen.

We exchanged views and agreed that the world population, regardless of the actual pace of the energy transition, will need oil, gas and even coal for years to come. In 20 years' time, global demand for electricity is projected to grow by a quarter and we will still need to use hydrocarbons to meet this demand. The conclusion is that, to make a cleaner planet, we need to invest in more cost-effective and efficient CO2 capture and recycling technologies, so that we use fossil fuels in a carbon-neutral way. Otherwise, 20 or even 30 years from now we will still be consuming a lot of fossil fuels, and we will still not have a good answer to how to reduce our impact on the environment.

Our British colleagues think that this is a very promising area in which Russia and the UK could work together productively. But, of course, it is by no means the only one. Humanity is facing a huge number of challenges today, from combating the coronavirus to the need to minimise pollution.

Obviously, we can only achieve the goals of sustainable development together, creating collaborations, building mutually respectful and mutually beneficial business relationships with colleagues abroad. However, in order for this to be possible, we first need to hear each other and understand why our actual or potential partners think this way and not the other. And then we need to find common ground that will allow us to take our interaction to a higher level.

Fortunately, with the assistance of UNESCO, we have managed to create and maintain a very important discussion platform - the Russo-British Raw Materials Dialogue. As its participants say, and on both sides, it has become even more important in the current political climate, and interest in it has increased significantly. So there is no, and cannot be, any antagonism between ours and the UK's scientists, industrialists, and experts. On the contrary, we are set up for positive, collaborative work. This is important not only for our countries, but for the entire global community.

Vladimir Litvinenko, Rector of St. Petersburg Mining University

Source: Rossiyskaya gazeta