One month after President Biden and Putin's summit in Geneva, two officials from the U.S. and Russia, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry and Russian Envoy for Climate Ruslan Edelgeriev, met to discuss US-Russia collaboration in combating climate change. Although the U.S. and Russia are currently at odds on many other issues, climate change remains a top priority for both administrations and is thus an area of mutual interest for the two countries. The meeting between the two countries' top climate officials indicated that U.S. and Russia are open to working together to fight climate change—so how are the U.S. and Russia planning to collaborate to tackle this issue and what does the future hold for US-Russia climate cooperation?
The meeting between John Kerry and Ruslan Edelgerieve (and a later one with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov)—was largely successful and productive. Lavrov addressed Kerry as "dear John" and stated that his visit was an "important and positive signal for developing bilateral relations." The meeting reflected a shift in both countries' policies. It underscored America's reversal on climate after four years of Trump's abandonment of global climate talks—that America, under the Biden administration, is once again committed to leading the global fight against climate change. The meeting also revealed Russia's renewed commitment to climate control. While before, Russia has been hesitant to get involved in international negotiations or commitments, Russia has now emerged as a pivotal player in global negotiations.
More broadly, Biden and Putin have recently expressed a mutual interest in tackling climate change in a series of global summits and domestic laws. At the April 2021 Leaders' Summit on Climate, President Putin called for international collaboration on climate change, suggesting that international projects and technology can further climate control goals. President Biden shared Putin's beliefs at that summit, supporting international cooperation on carbon dioxide removal projects and limiting cartoon dioxide emissions.
Although Russia has historically been reluctant to pursue climate change agreements, climate change is now presenting severe effects for Russia's environment, affecting average temperatures and precipitation and permafrost melting, more frequent wildfires in Siberia, flooding, and heatwaves. Therefore, Russia has recently emerged as a critical leader in climate negotiations. While some believe Russia will fall short of achieving Putin's carbon emission goals, Russia has passed several laws reaffirming its commitment. In July, Putin enacted a law that would require companies to report emissions and limit emissions over 150,000 tons. These recent moves not only show progress in Russia's domestic climate policy and portray Russia as a committed partner for the United States to fight climate change.
Russia and the United States share common ground in combatting climate change. With ever-growing global temperatures and ever-worsening environmental effects, the U.S. and Russia must take active, collaborative steps to fight this global problem. Hopefully, collaboration on climate change can transcend addressing the impacts and causes of climate change and advance broader US-Russia cooperation and understanding.