HSE Advocates for Environmental Transparency
More than 40% of Russian citizens consider changing their place of residence due to environmental problems. This was a statistic cited by Lyaila Sinyatullina, Head of the Department of Advanced Studies at HSE University’s Institute for Public Administration and Governance, at a roundtable dedicated to an environmental information bill that will be reviewed by the Russian State Duma.
Vladimir Burmatov, Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Ecology and Environmental Protection, stated that, at present, there exist no means for ordinary citizens, environmental experts, or media outlets to obtain current data about the city’s air quality, soil conditions, drinking water quality, radiation levels, or river and lake conditions.
‘Enterprises that release emissions and discharge harmful substances into the atmosphere and water are not required by law to provide information regarding their environmental activities, because they are protected by Russia’s trade secret protection law,’ he stated.
The government bill ‘On Environmental Information’, which the State Duma’s Ecology Committee is preparing for consideration, seeks to solve this problem. Providing key expertise for the architects of the bill was HSE University’s Institute for Public Administration and Governance. Vice Rector and Director of the Institute, Andrey Zhulin, noted that the 42nd article of the Russian Constitution guarantees Russian citizens the right to favorable environment as well as the right to information about environmental conditions. HSE University supports the government’s proposal to instate guarantees for citizens’ access to information. Currently, there is no mechanism in place to ensure the provision of this constitutional right.
‘There is a very high societal demand for environmental information,’ Andrey Zhulin emphasized.
HSE regularly conducts studies on citizens' attitudes toward environmental issues and the availability of information on the state of the environment. Survey results show a consistently high interest in the topic
According to a study conducted in February-March 2019, 94% of citizens reported that they are concerned about pollution. This is an absolute majority. 71% of the population reported that the problem is of critical importance to them. And only 1% of citizens believe that there are no environmental problems in their region of residence.
‘The situation with the availability of data on environmental pollution is interesting,’ says Andrey Zhulin. ‘64% of the population indicate difficulties in finding such information, and another 20% say that it is completely inaccessible.’
Such statistics directly touch upon another important topic — the degree of public confidence in official data. The participants in the roundtable were unanimous: the lack of full and timely information leads to the appearance of many ‘amateur’ stories and sources on the internet and in the media — many of which can result in unnecessary panic amongst citizens.
15% of citizens reported that they would change their place of residence were they to discover a threat to their life or health, and 32% reported that they would consider it
In addition to landfills and dumps, citizens are concerned about industrial enterprise activity. In a single industrial zone, it often occurs that only one large plant is willing to designate a protected, sanitary zone. Smaller enterprises often decline to comply with sanitation standards.
Based on the conclusions of the roundtable, the Russian State Duma affirmed that the bill, which aims to provide a solution to the current situation, will be adopted with input from the scientific community, regulatory bodies, the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, environmentalists, and federal executive bodies.
In early May, the HSE Institute of Ecology and the International Children's and Youth Award ‘Ecology is Everyone's Business’ held a joint seminar in Dagestan, where they discussed the launch of youth environmental projects for federal and international competitions. At the meeting, the Institute's experts presented methods of organising project activity in the field of ecology and sustainable development for educators and young people in Dagestan. Teachers and students from more than 50 schools, colleges and universities of the republic took part in the event.
The Green HSE student organisation recently held the ‘Green Conversation’ festival at the Cultural Centre on Pokrovsky Bulvar. At the event, participants discussed the planet’s main ecological problems and the steps required to start building a green future today.
Expeditions to the Eastern Arctic and Kara Seas investigated the thermal properties of bottom sediments. Numerous zones of bubbling methane flux were discovered in the shelf of the Laptev Sea and the East Siberian Sea, which researchers believe is affecting climate warming in the Arctic. The study has been published inMarine and Petroleum Geology.
A team of researchers has studied ice-containing sediment on the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. The researchers proved that the melting of underwater permafrost is caused not only by the warming of sea water, but also by migrations of its salt ions (mostly NaCl). The HSE News Service reports on this and other studies conducted by the HSE Institute of Ecology.
The UN member states pledged to achieve 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 that are aimed at saving the planet’s resources and increasing overall well-being. One — Goal 7 — sets out to “ensure universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy.”
To improve its global competitiveness, Russia needs an independent environmental agenda along with a concept for environmental protection, and it makes sense to suggest a ‘global clean deal’ to Europe. A report outlining this, prepared by a team of experts from HSE University, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and environmentalists, was presented at TASS.
Global warming has caused the total area of more than 600 Greater Caucasus glaciers to drop by approximately 16%, according to an international research team that includes Stanislav Kutuzov, geographer from HSE University. Glaciers without rock debris coverage have decreased more than those with debris coverage.
Having studied the impact of warming on countries in Central and Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia, Georgy Safonov, Director of the HSE Centre for Environmental and Natural Resource Economics, warns that responding to climate change does not seem to be a top priority for the region's governments, while potential threats are assessed only in economic terms and almost never as a social challenge.
It is believed that carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere are mainly regulated by ‘direct’ economic instruments - the carbon tax and the Emissions Trading System (ETS). However, a comparative analysis has shown that ‘indirect’ instruments, such as excise taxes on motor fuel and other energy taxes, did not yield any lesser impact than their ‘direct’ counterparts, and, over time, were even more effective.
It is believed that carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere are mainly regulated by ‘direct’ economic instruments - the carbon tax and the Emissions Trading System (ETS). However, a comparative analysis has shown that ‘indirect’ instruments, such as excise taxes on motor fuel and other energy taxes, did not yield any lesser impact than their ‘direct’ counterparts, and, over time, were even more effective. This is the conclusion drawn by HSE researcher Ilya Stepanov in his article, ‘Taxes in the Energy Sector and Their Role in Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions’.