The EU was united in principle but divided in practice. Only some member states prioritised the issue and results were limited.
Russia emits some seven percent of global greenhouse gases, making it the world’s third-largest emitter country, after China and the US. Russia has finally shifted from its traditional scepticism about climate change, and at the end of 2009 President Medvedev signed a new law on energy saving and energy efficiency, but it has not yet committed to a new global agreement on climate change to succeed the Kyoto Protocol. The EU discusses this issue – which it sees as easier than tariff removal or hard security issues – in the EU-Russia working group on climate change. Like Austria, Finland and Sweden, Russia wants its commitments on CO2 emissions to take into account its large forests.
In 2010, EU institutions and member states were united in international negotiations with Russia on climate change. The issue was high on the agenda of the EU-Russia summit in Rostov-on-Don in May/June and European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek highlighted climate change during negotiations on the Partnership for Modernisation. Some progress was made on pilot projects in the Climate Change Subgroup, which is part of the EU-Russia Environment Dialogue. However, member states were less united about the role of co-operation on climate change in their bilateral relationships with Russia. For example, only a few member states, such as Belgium, identified climate change as a priority in their Partnership for Modernisation.
Even such limited progress was less the result of EU influence than the global economic crisis, which has renewed Russian interest in energy conservation. As a result of the forest fires in the summer of 2010 and the Moscow smog, Russian attitudes towards global warming may be moving towards the EU position. Environmental groups and local lobbies within Russia itself are a growing factor, exemplified by the protests over the destruction of parts of the Khimki forest to make way for a new Moscow-St Petersburg highway.