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Climate change: Will Russian heat wave prompt serious action from Moscow?

In recent years, Russia viewed the threat of climate change in naive or cavalier terms. But this summer's devastating weather was a wake-up call.

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Will the heat wave and drought that have created so much havoc in Russia cause the leadership in that country to take climate change more seriously? The answer is important not only for Russia itself but for the world community. Russia is the third-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases globally, behind only China and the United States.

Until recently the Russian attitude toward the threats posed by climate change was cavalier to say the least. At an international climate change conference in 2003, then-President Putin said of global warming that “We would spend less on fur coats....” Russia endorsed the Kyoto Protocol but as a somewhat cynical act of Realpolitik on the part of all concerned. The United States had refused to sign up, and world leaders were desperate to reach the target number of signatories without which the whole endeavor would have fallen apart.

As an element of the deal, Russia was put on track to gain membership in the WTO and also allocated a large number of credits for emissions reductions made, even though these resulted wholly from the closing down of antiquated industrial enterprises that had become uncompetitive after 1989.

Naive view

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