Climate protection in Russia. What will the Supreme Court say? – DW – 20-09/2022

Published by
Peter Kavinsky

Two public organizations – “Eco-protection!” and the Moscow Helsinki Group, as well as 18 individuals, including activists of the movement Fridays for Future and representatives of small indigenous peoples from the North, Siberia and the Far East, appealed to the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation with a claim. They are demanding a revision of the presidential decree and government order regarding plans to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. The lawsuit says climate change directly affects Russia, which is one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases, and emphasizes that the country’s contribution to the fight against climate change is “grossly insufficient”.

The plaintiffs, who are demanding to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, refer to the fact that Russia, one of the countries that ratified in 2019, Paris Agreement – an international treaty on climate protection, committed to strive to prevent global temperature rise more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. But since then, it has not taken significant measures to combat climate change.

the first court case in Russiaon climate protection policy. A decision is now expected on whether it will be accepted for trial in the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation. Since the claimants went to court on September 16, shortly before the Russian Federation ceased to be a party to the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) may, if the claim rejected by the Russian court, his consideration.

What are the prosecutors referring to?

The lawsuit is based on data from a report by Mark Chernaik, an expert with the World Environmental Law Alliance. Despite the fact that the report was drawn up by an American organization, the expert mainly refers to the research and conclusions of Russian scientists about the consequences of climate change.

Sagging soil – a consequence of the thawing of permafrost Photo: MAXIM SHEMETOV/REUTERS

Specifically, the report provides data that is the fastest growing temperature in the Arctic regions of Siberia and the Far East. It has risen by almost a degree Celsius in the past ten years. That in recent decades abnormal heat has been observed on the territory of Russia, which leads to negative consequences. For example, the heat of 2010 was the direct cause of more than 55,000 premature deaths in Russia. The increase in the incidence of tick-borne encephalitis has also become a consequence of climate change in Russia.

In addition, due to global warming in Russia, the duration of the fire season is increasing. Scientists predict it will be 10-20 days longer by 2060 than it was in 2000. Melting permafrost is also accelerating, releasing dangerous pathogens like anthrax, increasing the risk of landslides and damaging infrastructure.

Climate change is a direct threat to indigenous peoples

There is also a direct threat to indigenous peoples. They are still engaged in traditional farming, so they are directly feeling the effects of climate change. So the heat and drought make it impossible for them to gather. Shallowing of rivers has consequences for fisheries. And due to the sharp drop in temperature in the tundra, an ice crust is formed, which leads to the massive death of deer. Forests are destroyed by fires. All of this, along with the Arctic’s intense rate of development, threatens the survival of the north’s indigenous peoples.

In Russia, the rights of indigenous peoples are guaranteed by the constitution and the associated federal law. However, Plaintiff Dmitry Berezhkov, an Itelmen from Kamchatka, rates the state’s efforts to preserve the indigenous peoples as insignificant: “Where there is oil and gas, the state pays practically no attention to the rights of indigenous peoples. Budgets are allocated for holidays and festivals, about essential matters – about the rights to land, resources, fishing quota, then the indigenous peoples turn out to be a despised minority on the part of the officials, which is why for Dmitry the lawsuit filed in the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation an opportunity to draw attention to the problems of indigenous peoples.

Criticism of environmentalists

But since the first lawsuit over climate action surfaced in the media, the plaintiffs have faced harsh criticism. So, Sergei Mironov, head of the Just Russia faction, considers the impact of greenhouse gases on the planet’s climate as a “myth” that “the West has long used against Russia and China”, the prosecutors – “a homemade fifth column dressed in green”, and environmentalists – “fascist sect”. On the party’s website, Mironov wrote that “the lawsuit is a blow to Russian enterprises” on the other hand “(referring to the Western sanctions against the Russian Federation).

“Nonsense aimed at discrediting the President of Russia and the government,” Valery Seleznev, a deputy of the LDPR faction, first deputy chairman of the State Duma Commission on Energy, called the lawsuit in his telegram channel. “It is time for the relevant authorities to take a closer look at the activities of many foreign environmentalists and other climate specialists. Ecology, as part of the global war unleashed against Russia, has its foreign saboteurs,” Seleznev wrote.

Outlook for the first “climate” case

Plaintiff Dmitry Berezhkov believes that the denial of the effects and causes of climate change has political reasons. “Russia is a producer of fuel, hydrocarbons, it is not profitable for it. Therefore, the political leadership of Russia completely ignores this problem and only pays attention to disasters,” Berezhkov said.

Another plaintiff, Fridays For Future youth activist Arshak Makichyan, believes the lawsuit is an opportunity to tell people the truth about the impacts of climate change. He is also convinced that climate change is closely associated with wars: “War (RF against Ukraine. – Ed.) decades ago rolled back all efforts for international climate negotiations, pushed Europe’s plans to switch to renewable energy.”

Another claimant, Andrey Danilov from the Murmansk region, a representative of the Sami people, responds to attacks against him and accusations of “working for the West”: “You cannot separate man and nature, they are one. It is necessary to save yourself, save the people, save the climate”. Andrey Danilov has already won a case in 2021 at the Constitutional Court of Russia over traditional hunting. “Local hunters asked me because even then they were afraid to sue. After this lawsuit, they realized that they can protect their rights, that they have opportunities, that there is hope,” he says. Danilov is optimistic and hopes that the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation will also consider this claim.

Despite examples of “climate” cases being won, lawyer Grigory Vaypan doesn’t really believe in success in countries like Pakistan and Nepal. The special thing about this case in Russia is that there is no independent court, according to the lawyer. But at the same time, he notes that in this case the very fact of filing a lawsuit is important, which is a signal to the authorities and society about the existing problem.

Also see:

Abnormal heat in Europe

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Peter Kavinsky

Peter Kavinsky is the Executive Editor at cablefreetv.org

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