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Angelina Davydova: 'The topics of climate and sustainability are becoming increasingly important in Russia, too'

Name: Angelina Davydova:
Lives in: Sankt Petersburg, Russia
Country of origin: Russia
Period in Germany: Internship with the Ministry for Urban Development and Environment in Hamburg 2009
Occupation: Environmental journalist

The university-educated economist and journalist Angelina Davydova heads the Russian-German Office of Environmental Information (RNEI) and teaches journalism at the university in St. Petersburg. In addition, she has been an observer of UN climate protection negotiations since 2008.

Ms Davydova, here in Germany, the term 'sustainability' has been a key theme of the environment debate for many years. More recently, the term 'sustainable consumption' has become more of an issue, shifting responsibility to each and every one of us. Am I right in thinking that this is not such a major issue in Russia?

Angelina Davydova: I have been dealing intensively with environmental and sustainability issues since 2008. During this time, awareness of this topic has increased a great deal in Russia. In 2008 it was at best considered something for 'eco-freaks'. Today it's a topic that has truly gone mainstream. At least in the bigger cities and amongst younger people who are interested in the world around them, and who travel and read online media. For these people, future-oriented issues such as sustainable consumption have a much greater significance than before.

What role do the media play in this?

Angelina Davydova: Topics such as the environment, climate and sustainability are getting more attention in the Russian media landscape too, and are also increasingly found across the board in mainstream media, from online and print media to television. As a freelance author, I myself write regularly not only for various environmental news media but also for 'Kommersant', one of the leading daily newspapers in Russia.

Solar energy is also experiencing a boom in Russia

Germany has committed to an energy transition and is relying more and more on regenerative energies. Russia has large reserves of fossil fuels – do regenerative fuels even get a passing interest here?  

Angelina Davydova: At the moment regenerative energies hardly play any role in Russia – they account for less than one percent of electricity generation. However: in 2013 the Russian Government adopted a law that aims to promote solar and wind power and also smaller hydropower plants. Since then solar power has experienced somewhat of a boost, albeit at a comparatively lower level of intensity.

At the end of October 2015, the Republic of Bashkortostan completed the first expansion phase of a 20-megawatt solar power plant. According to the operating company, Hevel Solar, another six solar power plants with an overall capacity of around 60 megawatts are to go online in the region over the next three years. In all, Hevel Solar,  which is a joint venture by the Russian Renova Group and the Russian state corporation Rusnano, is planning to feed some 500 megawatts into the Russian power grid in the course of the next three years.

By 2020, annual solar power production Russia-wide is scheduled to be 1.5 gigawatts a year. That's strong growth, even if Russia's share of the global production of renewable energies will not be more than half a percent.

Interview with Angelina Davydova: 'The most important thing is changing the way you think' (in German)

The Paris Climate Conference could mark a changing point

You have been observing the United Nations' negotiations on climate protection for a number of years now. What do you expect this year from COP21 in Paris?

Angelina Davydova: The climate conference in Paris is taking place shortly after the horrific terror attacks by the so-called Islamic State. I hope that, in the long term, 'Paris 2015' will stand for something else, namely the positive turning point that this climate summit and its follow-on agreement to the Kyoto Protocol represent in terms of international climate policy. At any rate, more observers were more optimistic about this upcoming event than in previous years. And as far as we can say at the moment, the Paris negotiations really could put future global climate policy on a new footing. This greatly depends however on whether, in the years ahead, the Contracting Parties can actually bring about the concrete emissions reductions they have committed to achieving. We need to monitor this, and the reduction targets themselves, every five years in future.

'I don't buy anything I don't really need'

I’d like to finish by asking a more personal question: How do you try to live up to your ideal of a sustainable lifestyle on a day-to-day basis?

Angelina Davydova: I try to avoid buying things I don't really need. Furthermore, it's important for me to know where the things I buy come from and whether they were produced in an environmentally friendly way and have been traded fairly. With food, I try to buy local produce wherever possible. And of course I keep an eye on how much electricity and water I use. And I separate my rubbish, although that isn't quite as easy in St. Petersburg as it is in Germany, as we don't have a centrally organised waste-separation system here. I also donate any old clothes, books and household appliances that are in good condition.

What's more I don't have a car and I use public transport as much as possible. On the down side, I do fly a lot owing to my job. But I do try to sensitise my family and friends, colleagues and students to this topic. And I hope that through my articles and lectures, I am also able to make a small difference, too.

Interview: Andreas Vierecke

December 2015

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