On Wednesday, June 3, the Valdai Club held an online round table discussion, titled “Climate and Sustainable Development in the Aftermath of the Coronavirus Crisis – How Will the World Change?”, which brought together prominent voices from the science and business communities as well as civil society. Participants discussed changes in the global environmental agenda caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and the lessons that humanity is beginning to learn from this on-going emergency.
The coronavirus pandemic has shifted the focus of global attention from the climate agenda, but climate change issues are not losing their relevance. Moreover, the pandemic has highlighted a number of new aspects of these problems and provided an impetus to the search for fundamentally new solutions, the participants of the round table said. The first part of the event, which lasted about two hours, was devoted to the agreements and regulatory framework governing CO2 emissions, primarily the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Agrafena Kotova, an expert from the Russian delegation to the 25th COP of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said that negotiations in Madrid last December had revealed a number of fundamental disagreements between the participating countries, which have not yet been overcome. The most acute question concerns the parameters of international cooperation, in particular, the transfer of emission quotas from the Kyoto period to the Paris period. Given that the next round of negotiations was postponed due to the pandemic, there is no reason to expect an early solution to these contradictions.
Another important climate agreement that will have long-term consequences for the Russian economy is the European Green Deal. Klaus Milke, Chairman of the Steering Group of the international F20 Platform, founder of the Stiftung Zukunftsfähigkeit foundation, and Honorary Chairman of Germanwatch e.V., called for “transformative cooperation” between Russia and the EU in the energy sector, noting that in the future Russia could become an exporter of hydrogen fuel.
The next part of the discussion was devoted to the impact of the pandemic on global ecology. According to Bureau of Environmental Information Director Angelina Davydova, an observer at the UN negotiations on climate change, a decrease in economic activity under quarantine has led to a local and temporary reduction in emissions, but the situation with waste has become more complicated. The quarantine also raised a number of other questions, in particular, about the future of the sharing economy and what awaits public transport, insisting that we need to work on their solution today.
In the final part of the round table, the participants discussed the impact of the pandemic on the business models of companies and the technological imperatives that arose in connection with it. According to Caio Koch-Weser, chairman of the advisory board of the European Climate Fund, there has been a mental shift in business from efficiency to sustainability. In turn, Luke Manning, Global Strategy Sustainability and Corporate Risk Manager at Refinitiv, noted that certain qualities companies have, such as resilience and adaptability, are becoming increasingly important. This is reflected in the stock market activity: traders show greater interest in companies seeking sustainable development, he stressed. Russia is no exception. According to Sergey Chestnoy, Advisor to the President of UC RUSAL, “the vast majority of Russian business has become convinced that the goals of sustainable development are completely real”.
The crisis associated with coronavirus gave impetus to the development of new technologies, allowing them to break out of the press of traditional ideas, said Yevgeny Kuznetsov, CEO of Orbita Capital Partners, Ambassador of the University of the Singularity. So, development biotechnologies is being stimulated, vaccine development processes are accelerated. The technologies of artificial intelligence, robotics and production automation, in logistics and transport will continue to develop – and the argument of maintaining jobs will play an increasingly smaller role. This creates both new opportunities and new challenges.