St. Petersburg Hosts Conference on Adapting to Climate Change in Arctic
The Conference on Adapting to Climate Change in the Arctic took place on 7–8 July in St. Petersburg as part of the plan for the main events of Russia’s Chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2021–2023, which is being operated by the Roscongress Foundation.
According to Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation Sergey Anoprienko, who cited data gathered by Russian scientists, the rate of warming in Russia exceeds the global average by approximately 2.5 times, and it is almost 4 times higher in the Arctic. Rising temperatures are inevitably followed by shrinking sea ice:between 1996 and 2005, ice cover in the sea decreased by more than 3 times. It was in this context that the Deputy Minister drew participants’ attention to the impact of climatic conditions on those inhabiting the Russian North. The degradation of permafrost and rising temperatures necessitate an improvement to systems for monitoring the condition of buildings and utilities, preventing the flooding of infrastructure, and preparing for an increased danger of fires.
“We won’t be able to put a stop to observed climate change overnight. We are carefully collecting all available information and data on the actual state of the climate, and on the basis of this we are running predictive scenarios. This data forms the basis for adaptation measures to be put into practice. Our work together, at federal, regional, and municipal levels, will contribute to success,” Anoprienko said.
Climate issues lie at the heart of the Arctic Council Strategic Plan 2021 to 2030, Ambassador-at-Large of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials of the Arctic Council Nikolay Korchunov said. He stressed that the environment in the Arctic was vulnerable to the influence of economic activities from beyond just the Arctic countries, with climate change in the region a consequence of global economic processes. He stressed that as the current chair of the Arctic Council, Russia is committed to preserving the traditional way of life of the Arctic’s indigenous peoples through projects for environmental protection, and that includes making greater use of the potential of large businesses operating in indigenous regions.
“Issues related to environmental protection and climate change in the Arctic have not disappeared from the current Arctic Council agenda. In spite of recent developments, we, for our part, remain open to dialogue with the Council’s partners to ensure environmental security in the region. At the same time, we intend to pursue cooperation with scientists and experts from outside the region, as climate change in the Arctic is global in nature, and its effects are felt all across the globe,” Korchunov said.
Director of the Infrastructure Development Department of the Russian Ministry for the Development of the Far East and the Arctic Soslan Abisalov noted how important the climate agenda was to the Arctic. He spoke of how Russia’s economic development and plans for infrastructure and industrial projects depended directly on the implementation of climate scenarios in the Arctic. The Russian Ministry for the Development of the Far East and the Arctic has worked together with other agencies to develop a roadmap for implementing engineering and technical solutions to ensure infrastructure continues to function in the Arctic. “More than 40% of the foundations of buildings and structures in the cryolithic zone are deformed. It is very important to introduce new technical solutions that will ensure infrastructure continues to function in the face of climate change,” he said.
Another important challenge in the Arctic zone is the protection of nature from man-made pressures. According to Abisalov, the Clean Arctic project was launched in 2021, with volunteers collecting over 1,500 tonnes of waste. In 2022, approximately 3,000 volunteers applied to take part in environmental events. On 16–18 August, Usinsk (Komi Republic) will host a major volunteer forum-festival entitled “The Arctic. Breaking the Ice’, which is part of the programme of the main events of Russia’s Chairmanship of the Arctic Council, Abisalov said in conclusion.
According to Jiang Zhaoli, Deputy Director of the Climate Change Department at China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment, Beijing is willing to work together with any country interested in studying climate change. “Strong cooperation and collaboration will help us to confront climate change in the Arctic, and we will succeed in adapting to these changes,” he said. According to the speaker, documents in this area have already been signed with 38 states.
Investments in adapting Russia’s Arctic social infrastructure to climate change are estimated at RUB 50 billion per year, Scientific Director at the Institute of Economic Forecasting of the Russian Academy of Sciences Boris Porfiriev said. “For the social sector alone – road infrastructure, housing, and healthcare infrastructure, without taking into account the real economy – we are talking about at least RUB 50 billion a year. And considering the long-term nature of these consequences, we are talking, of course, about trillions of roubles,” he said. According to him, Russia has developed 17 Arctic climate change adaptation plans - ten sectoral and seven regional plans.
The programme for the Conference on Adapting to Climate Change in the Arctic included discussions in six sessions that brought together leading experts and the heads of relevant organisations and agencies. Participants discussed the adaptation of key sectors of the economy to the new climate conditions and considered the experience of Russian regions in this area and the scientific basis of adaptation to climate change. The conference was organised by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation.
Environmental protection, including climate change, is a priority of Russia’s Chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2021–2023. Given the rapid nature of the change to the climate in the Arctic, as evidenced by permafrost degradation and gas hydrate emissions, Russia considers tasks of primary importance in the struggle to mitigate the negative effects of climate change to include: increasing adaptability and resilience to its effects, conserving and restoring the environment, using natural resources sustainably, maintaining the health of Arctic ecosystems, including the marine environment, and conserving biodiversity, especially in respect to migratory bird species.
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