A conference was held in Moscow entitled "Nature-based Solutions. What Can Russia Offer the World?"

Center for Science and Technology Studies (STS Center)
Oleg Kharkhordin; Olga Bychkova

On November 16, 2023, Moscow hosted the conference "Nature-based Solutions: What Can Russia Offer the World?" organized by the European University at St. Petersburg with the support of the Andrey Melnichenko Foundation. More than twenty leading researchers from Russian and foreign universities studying climate change shared their views on the potential of using nature-based solutions (NBS) as a means of mitigating and adapting to the effects of global warming.

The conference opened with speeches by Andrey Melnichenko (Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs—RUIE—Committee on Climate Policy and Carbon Regulation), Ilya Tipunin (Andrey Melnichenko Foundation) and Olga Bychkova (EUSPb). Andrey Melnichenko outlined the current climate agenda in the world and emphasized the need to find a balance between economic and natural-climate solutions to overcome the problem of climate change. Ilya Tipunin spoke about the programs implemented by the Foundation to support climate research and nature-based solutions projects. Olga Bychkova drew the audience's attention to the fact that, according to public opinion polls, Russians are still not very interested in the topic of climate change, and that there is a need for a constant dialog between representatives from different branches of science, business, government and society on the problems of climate and the planet.

The first panel, "Nature-based Solutions (NBS) and their Alternatives—World Experience and Difficulties of Definition", was devoted to a discussion of the role of climate science in building climate policy, as well as the place of NBS among other measures to combat the negative effects of global warming.

Vladimir Kattsov (A. I. Voeikov Main Geophysical Observatory) drew participants' attention to the fact that climate science can only provide information and analytical support for climate policy, while the adoption of specific mitigation and adaptation measures should be based on socio-economic expertise. Anna Romanovskaya (Yu. A. Izrael Institute of Global Climate and Ecology, Russian Academy of Sciences) pointed out the role of NBS in the overall picture of measures for adaptation and mitigation of climate change impacts and described the potential of NBS applications in Russia. Evgeny Rozanov (St. Petersburg State University) assessed the possible effect of applying one of the types of Solar Radiation Management (SRM), which involves the release of various types of aerosol into the stratosphere. The effect of such a solution should be an increase in the Earth's reflectivity, which would significantly reduce or compensate for the increase in global temperature.

Within the framework of the second section "Monitoring and Expertise in Assessing and Forecasting the Effect of NBS" the participants discussed the existing tools necessary for successful implementation of NBS initiatives. Olga Solomina (Institute of Geography, Russian Academy of Sciences) emphasized the role of paleoclimatology as a source of information for decision-making in the field of mitigation and adaptation to climate change. Olga Zolina (Institute of Oceanology, Russian Academy of Sciences/Université Grenoble Alpes) pointed out the existing problems of monitoring and prediction of extreme climate events in climatology. Irina Fedorova (A. L. Takhtajyan Institute of Botany, National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia) highlighted the existing risks associated with changes in the flow of large rivers in the Arctic and proposed possible NBS for their mitigation and adaptation. In the final report of the section, Alexander Chernokulsky (Obukhov Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Russian Academy of Sciences) summarized the climate change-induced risks for one of the main natural CO₂ sinks: forest ecosystems.

The third section was devoted to already existing NBS projects in Russia. Nikita Zimov spoke about the Pleistocene Park experiment he is implementing in the Sakha Republic and ways to restore the Mammoth Steppe ecosystem. Sergey Gulev (P.P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, Russian Academy of Sciences) shared his opinion on the prospects of implementation in Russia of NBS initiatives related to the absorption capacity of the world’s oceans and spoke about existing marine carbon monitoring projects. Alexander Olchev (Lomonosov Moscow State University) shared information on the current status of Russian forest carbon farms. In their commentary, Nikolay Vakhtin and Olga Bychkova (EUSPb) drew attention to the potential risks that the Pleistocene Park experiment may face in the future, their causes and possible manifestations. Alexey Ekaykin (Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute), referencing paleoclimatological data, once again emphasized the crucial role of the world’s oceans as the main sink of excess CO₂. Alexey Aleynikov (Center for Forest Ecology and Productivity, Russian Academy of Sciences) pointed out the potential of forest use and forest-climatic projects, emphasizing the role of intact old-growth forests as some of the most effective terrestrial carbon sinks. 

In the fourth section of the conference, participants discussed potential NBS and their role in mitigating the negative effects of climate change. Sergey Kirpotin (Tomsk State University) drew the audience’s attention to the great potential of using wetlands as carbon sinks; the absorption capacity of peat bogs, in his opinion, may exceed that of forests. Irina Kurganova (Institute of Physicochemical and Biological Problems of Soil Science, Russian Academy of Sciences) devoted her report to the potential of Russia's soil cover to counteract the negative effects of climate change. Alla Savenko (Lomonosov Moscow State University) spoke about some aspects of CO₂ immobilization in various ecosystems, confirming the prospects of wetlands as a sinks for anthropogenic CO₂. Vyacheslav Semenov (Institute of Physico-Chemical and Biological Problems of Soil Science, Russian Academy of Sciences) pointed to the need to find a compromise between "climatic" and "food" imperatives in the problem of land use. 

In the fifth panel session, participants continued discussions on potential NBS, focusing this time on adaptation projectsOleg Anisimov (State Hydrological Institute) considered the possibility of using the potential of the natural evolution of Arctic ecosystems as a means of combating global warming. Dmitry Zamolodchikov (Center for Forest Ecology and Productivity of the Russian Academy of Sciences) spoke about possible public NBS initiatives, in particular, about "forest" projects implemented in the southern regions of European Russia. Pavel Konstantinov (Lomonosov Moscow State University) highlighted possible nature-based adaptation projects for Russian cities. Oleg Kharkhordin (EUSPb) delivered the concluding remarks. He drew attention to the difficulty of defining the boundary between the areas of "nature" and "society", "natural" and "artificial", and pointed out that this directly affects decision-making concerning the inclusion of individual NBS initiatives.

The conference concluded with a general discussion involving young scientists and graduate students specializing in various aspects of Earth sciences.