In an interview to the leading program SophieCo Sofiko Shevardnadze, Sergey Ivanov, and special presidential envoy on the issues of environmental activities, the environment and of transport of Russia, told about the problems of climate change, volatile politics trump and the development of renewable energy sources. Ivanov stressed that Russia will continue the development of the Arctic. In addition, the official mentioned the threat of terror and revealed the secret, what will happen if a huge airliner crash into nuclear power plants.
— First, let’s talk about Paris climate agreement. Politicians and scientists are calling it a historic. However, the US President Donald trump has repeatedly stated that the issue does not interest him and promised to withdraw the United States from this agreement. But to predict that it will take Mr. trump is very difficult — today he says one thing and tomorrow the opposite. So what are we to expect from him? Should we believe his words?
— I will not comment on the position of President of the trump. We all know that he promised before the election, and what he’s doing now. In the end, it worries America — we also have private care.
The Paris agreement on climate change was ratified by 136-Yu countries. Russia haven’t done it yet because we first want to carefully analyze its possible consequences. Let me remind you that this framework agreement. For example, we want to calculate the volume available in Russian forests, which absorb massive amounts of carbon dioxide.
Russia is, among other things, “global environmental donor”. We absorb more carbon dioxide than we produce. As President Putin at the climate conference in Paris, we want to make sure that we will be able to fulfill its obligations. We have a very ambitious plan — we want to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to levels 70 percent from that of 1990. This is a very ambitious goal, but I am sure that we will be able to achieve it by 2030 year.
— If you don’t mind, we’ll talk in detail about the losses that this agreement can bring to the Russian economy. But before that I would like to explain why I asked you a question about the statement by trump. The fact that the Kyoto Protocol, for example, fell apart after George W. Bush brought with him to America. So I think if trump will do the same, do not decide whether other countries-participants of the agreement that they also no longer need?
— You always turn the conversation to the position of America, and trying to get me to comment on this issue. As I said, regardless of the position of America, the problem of climate change we, of course, concerned. We believe that global warming is indeed the case – at least in the Northern hemisphere (I will go into more detail later). Emissions of carbon dioxide depends mainly on what kind of energy is mostly used in the world. Again, I don’t know what the President thinks trump and American business, but I suspect that they don’t want the Paris agreement reduced economic growth. But this is just my opinion, I do not insist on the absolute correctness of my suspicions.
—Well, let’s put aside the opinion of the trump to the side. But tell me, as a person extremely knowledgeable and for many years served in the government, will be crowned if in your opinion the Paris agreement a success? After all, the Kyoto Protocol and Copenhagendk agreement so nothing came of it.
— Here all depends on a number of factors. The Paris agreement, of course, will remain in effect, but its requirements must comply with all is the only rational approach to its implementation. If one of the countries, for example, forget about their obligations and go beyond yourself imposed limitations, the other parties to the agreement may want to reconsider their commitments. But I would like to stress again that the framework – specific limitations it imposes. As you know, the devil is in the details.
— Let’s now talk specifically about Russia. You said that Moscow is now closely analyzes the framework and I have following question for you: what negative effects can expect the Russian economy after the adoption of this agreement?
— I do not think that we face the end of oil and natural gas. However, the amount of solar energy production in Russia is growing slowly but surely. In some areas of our country — the Caucasus, Altai and even in the far North, in Yakutia — very Sunny all year round. Thus, in these areas it makes sense to use renewable energy, mostly solar. In addition, as I have said, in Russia there is another source of renewable energy which is not used. I’m talking about the garbage. We’re going to build five large incinerator facilities to produce heat and electricity. I have no doubt that Russia will always be enough trash for energy production.
— This brings me to two other questions. Russia, as you said, does not expect the end or collapse of the oil industry. We are one of the largest oil producers and second largest producer of natural gas. In these areas we are doing quite well. If the existing scheme is so effective, why is it so much to invest in renewable energy? Isn’t that risky?
— First of all, we are talking about technology. I’m not clairvoyant. How will technological development in the next hundred years, is not known. But it is possible that there will be new technology by which to obtain energy through wind, solar or waste would be cheaper to produce than from the earth’s gas or oil. I do not know.
— What do we expect? Oil will remain, but it will not produce, because the new energy will become cheaper, and everyone will be on renewable sources?
— I think that in a hundred years will remain oil and gas, but, for example, cars, which account for the lion’s share of oil consumption — in the form of gasoline, more and more will go to electricity.
— And in the near future awaits Europe? After all, Russia is one of the largest exporters of gas and oil to Europe. Suppose we start to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and less to invest in the resources we are talking about today. What will happen to Europe? For her there will be some consequences?
— First, I have always stressed that Russia is also a European country. And in terms of mentality and in terms of geography and even in religious terms, we — the Europeans. Most Europeans with whom I spoke, agree with this. Second, the key role played by energy balance, which I have already spoken. Countries that do not have a large number of minerals, large-scale oil and gas fields, today, are more motivated to move towards renewable sources.
Yes, it all depends on the prices of the economy, but, again, natural gas is environmentally friendly source of energy. I can not imagine what, for example, Germany can replace Russian gas in the near future. Remember, our President once during a visit to Germany, made a joke, saying, okay, the Russian coal you don’t like the Russian oil is not like gas “you don’t want. What are you, wood will be a home to heat? So after the firewood, Russia will have to buy!”
But seriously, the question remains open?
— Yes, but back to the Paris agreement. We’re sticking to it. We intend to ratify it, I want very clearly to say so. And a bar that we had set for ourselves, is much higher than most countries of the world: we plan to 2030 year to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and 70% much more than during the same period, promised to make our partners.
— What is “terror”?
— It exists in two different forms. The first is the actions of radical environmental organizations such as Greenpeace, who stormed oil platforms or to cut fishing nets. But there is another side of the coin. Remember Iraqi aggression against Kuwait in 1990-m to year. When the armed forces of Iraq under pressure from the international community withdrew from Kuwait, they set fire to oil wells, some of the platform blew up, a huge amount of oil was in the Persian Gulf, and for many years there was no fish, no life, marine life. In my opinion, this is called terror. That is, the terror is already there.
And in this century I can predict a new type of threat. A country for various reasons — for example, economic or political — will not abide by international law in the field of environmental protection, and it can be imposed by the international environmental sanctions. But that’s just my prediction.
— In your opinion, the problem of terror at the moment, is more acute than in the period of the Iraq-Kuwait war?
— I wouldn’t say sharper, but I think that, theoretically, such a risk exists. Possible. I do not know, for example, some crazy dictator can use an ecological disaster as a last resort of opposition to foreign pressure. Possible. Alas.
— I would like to talk about the Arctic, because it is another widely discussed topic. It is assumed that the Arctic lies 22% of the world’s undiscovered oil and natural gas. This “tidbit” might provoke the international friction?
You’re right, the Arctic has huge oil and gas reserves, but in addition to energy there is also gold, platinum, diamonds. The development of these fields in part already underway. I’m absolutely sure that Russia will continue to move in the direction of the Arctic. It all depends on how match economic interests and considerations with the protection of the environment. So, for example, offshore oil and gas installations in the Arctic need to be much more reliable and safer than those used on the African continental shelf off the coast of Nigeria. That is, in the region of environmental restrictions and regulations should be much stricter than anywhere else.
— Of course, you don’t want to comment on political issues, but sometimes all that relates to environmental protection, literally inseparably connected with politics. In your words, Russia will continue to move in the direction of the Arctic. It is worth saying that I spent there recently, Russian military exercises have done in Europe a lot of noise. The media even called it “saber-rattling” in the spirit of the cold war. Why, in your opinion, any action of Russia in this region by default perceived as aggression?
— To be honest, I would not say that the Arctic is especially actively conducted military activities. I spent six years headed the Russian Ministry of defense, and, believe me, I know whereof I speak. We have several Arctic bases, which could be called “new”, but actually it is not. We just go back after the collapse of the Soviet Union and cuts in the military budget.
In addition, our military bases in the Arctic do not affect international security. First, it is not nuclear facilities, they perform solely defensive functions, for example, the air defense system. Do we not have the right to deploy them on its own territory? We do not host the objects of military infrastructure outside of our national borders. Secondly, military bases actually help to explore the Arctic for peaceful purposes. For example, for composition of meteorological forecasts or studies of ice drift. The polar ice caps are definitely melting, and quite quickly. It is proven fact.
In this case, they are converted into neutral waters, and they will be able to cross anyone. It is projected that by 2030, the year the ice cover of the Arctic ocean in summer is to go completely.
— Depends on the circumstances. The Arctic is melting faster than the Northern hemisphere as a whole. In the last thirty years the average temperature in the Arctic has changed 0.8 degrees Celsius. That’s a lot. Of course, no one expects the Arctic will melt in a moment – is, thank God, impossible. But the fact that it melts – that’s a fact. For Russia there is both pluses and minuses.
One of the advantages, of course, is that the result will thaw the Northern sea route. From the point of view of transport it will become for Russia a huge advantage, because the sea route from Murmansk to Vladivostok along the Northern coast of Russia, half as long as the same route over the Indian ocean, which is now being used. But like I said, there are also negative aspects. For example, if you start to melt the tundra, many construction projects going there, I won’t say “overwhelm”, but it certainly will face challenges. So once again – there are both pros and cons.
— Listening to you – and scientists – it seems that the Arctic sooner or later there will be no snow – at least in the summer. Will it be something like the Suez canal?
— I don’t think the snow will disappear soon there – except that in 200-300 years. Yes, now the Arctic is melting, but who knows what will happen in 300-400 years? Perhaps the temperature there, on the contrary, begins to drop. You probably noticed that I keep mentioning the Northern hemisphere… I was in the Antarctic. There is a number of Russian stations. We monitor climate in the region for 60 years.
So, the number of ice is not decreasing but rather increasing. In simple terms, the climate seemed to be breathing – he then colder, then warmer, then colder, then warmer. In order to draw far-reaching conclusions, the necessary scientific data for a period at least 1000 years. Humanity so far has only data for one hundred years. And this is nothing, just nothing.
— Well, wait two or three centuries. I would also like to discuss another question. Let’s talk about water. According to the UN Protocol, the lack of water is expected by 2030 year. As you know, this issue is already very serious – take, for example, Egypt and its neighbors. How you consider, whether water – or rather its lack – in the future to provoke a major conflict?
— In short – Yes. I think maybe. I lived in Africa… (I’m a seasoned scout). So, the problem of shortage of fresh water there is extremely urgent now. In addition to the Africa clean drinking water is lacking in other regions – in Central Asia, for example, and in some other Asian countries. Russia – a happy owner of huge reserves of pure fresh water. Only one lake Baikal contains almost a quarter of all freshwater in the world. We are very fortunate that we have such volumes.
— In your opinion, in the future, Russia could become a major exporter of fresh water?
— It is possible. We are already exporting the Baikal fresh water. It is very expensive, about two dollars per bottle. But buying.
— Is it possible to pay attention to the water deficit and to prevent conflicts?
— First, there is a shortage of fresh water, not just drinking, but just for agricultural needs. The problem exists now, and you have rightly referred to the conflicts around water. The world already is a lot of such conflicts. Russia understands the existing problem, and we have many bilateral agreements, so-called transboundary rivers and lakes.
Secondly, there are new technologies for desalination of salty ocean water — and I believe in them. I love technology and this is partly an environmental issue. Next year, I hope in Chukotka will be put into operation the first floating nuclear power station. The main goal is of course to produce energy. But the scientists told me that a floating nuclear power plant can easily get fresh water from salty ocean. Possible. For the world this new resource.
But, if we talk about the Arab world, Africa, you are right: in the light of shortage of fresh water the world is becoming more unpredictable, there are already conflicts and, unfortunately, don’t want to make unpleasant predictions, but I think that in the future we will see wars over fresh water.
And in place of the oil pipeline will come aqueducts?
— Some scientists say that in the future the export of fresh water will bring Russia more income than the export of oil and gas.
— Arab countries are already showing interest in these plants. But given the problems of the region how safe it would be to be there? It can, for example, capture pirates, or, say, terrorists.
— You mean nuclear power?
—or it accidentally can get the missile “Tomahawk”.
— Want to reveal to you state secret?
— Just kidding, of course. Not that much of a secret. In General, even if in the center of modern nuclear power plant would hit large aircraft “Boeing 777”, — I assure you, nothing will happen. It is the same with other modern technologies. At least the scientists who are developing modern nuclear power plants, in writing, rucas its name and reputation, ensure that no possible or conceivable natural disaster for modern nuclear power plants of the fifth generation is not dangerous. Of course, if nuclear power plants will be nuclear missile, it would be a disaster, but I hope that mankind will not survive finally from the mind.