Towards sustainable development. Post-Covid imperatives

Cover Page

Cite item



Full Text

For a while, the coronavirus pandemic distracted our attention from the already acknowledged existential challenges to the world community - those that necessitate the transition of the social and economic development mechanisms to the guaranteed sustainability tracks. However, as the pandemic-induced stress subsides we can again hear the persistent concern about the fact that the references and the targets developed for the collective action within the UN framework in 2015 prove insufficient to avert intensified global risks. We are talking about the Paris Agreement on Climate Change (the Paris Climate Accords)[11] and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development[12]. Insufficient not only due to the aggravation of global warming, which is fraught with the catastrophic irreversibility of the destructive process, but also considering the exacerbating energy crisis that is gaining momentum. The pandemic has introduced substantial additional motives of universal concern. Primarily regarding the ill-preparedness of most of the global community to effectively counteract what leads to the transformation of a virus epidemic with mass fatalities into a pandemic process. Concurrently, we find another logical consequence - a reminder about the probability of adding bacteriological and virological tools to the basic arsenal of mass destruction weapons. There are reasons to assume that the above-mentioned motives and concerns will manifest themselves at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow this November, at the forum of the signatory states of the Framework Convention on Climate Change adopted in 1992. But the problem is not only about a new set of challenges and concerns. It is about the necessity for a more adequate perception of the entire totality of global-scale existential threats and the acknowledgment of their interconnectivity. Here, we are inevitably faced with a methodological question that is equally significant for both scientific and theoretical cognition and practical policy, for developing a strategy of individual and collective action on the international arena. It comes down to the integral perception of the problems of sustainable development as well as the irreplaceability of interdisciplinary scientific and theoretical cognition in this case. The pandemic practice only accentuates this conclusion. New Approaches and Old Priorities The gravity of the current situation necessitates changes in the approaches that until now have been dominant in the development and implementation of the sustainable development priorities. Thus, we may be talking about the principle of voluntary participation in the joint effort to overcome the crisis within the global environmental situation and about the corrective measures that are being put into the implementation of the principle of shared yet differentiated responsibility. The already visible indicators of the critical deterioration of the world ecological situation demand a transition to stricter liabilities and responsibility norms. On the other hand, one must factor in the use of arbitrary (including extraterritorial) interpretation of the adopted norms, as well as a broad application of double standards, which the leaders of the Western community resort to. They neglect the lack of alternatives in the economic progress of developing countries - the growth in employment and what they themselves are not ready to sacrifice to ecological wellbeing. Today, increasingly obvious is the conclusion stemming from the anthropogenic origin of the existential threats that are part of the general motivation behind the transition to the sustainable development platform. Its essence is in recognizing the objective need to push for the equally anthropogenic resolution of the global crisis that has exploded in the human-society-nature relationship system. On the other hand, in implementing this approach, one cannot do without the new quality of international cooperation, without redeeming it from the excessiveness of confrontational divergence imposed by a crumbling hegemon. When we turn to the methodological and methodical parts of investigating our subject, it should be noted that at this point we have formed a sufficient body of literature of the relevant genre, including academic literature for higher school studies. To RUDN University’s credit it needs to be pointed out that our university pioneered in preparing and publishing such works[13]. For the time being, examination of the documents of related international organizations (primarily the UN and its specialized agencies) and the relevant research literature on the problems of sustainable development enables giving a general definition for our subject based on the integral approach. In the long run, the development may be sustainable under the following circumstances: if economic balance has been achieved, social inclusiveness has been ensured, and environmental accountability has been observed, as well as when the institutional environment and institutional structure are meeting the interests of the majority and can provide protection for the minority. The system of international relations should in turn be brought to a state that is conducive to achieving the conditions[14]. An attempt to shift to a sustainable development platform based on one of the mentioned factors only or a part of them will not give reliable guarantees for securing the result sought. In Line with Contemporary Agenda We must admit that in the Russian practice the adoption of the imperatives of the transition to the sustainable development practice is stalled. The situation of the last few years in our country demonstrates “a catch-up” of sorts, albeit quite a successful one, in our opinion. It has gained momentum. In the end of Dmitry Medvedev’s mandate, the postponed ratification of the Paris Climate Agreement was effectuated. Last year, the first Voluntary National Review of the progress made in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development[15] in Russia was presented at the UN. The Ministry of Economic Development prepared a draft strategy of low-carbon development; it is now undergoing the procedure of interdepartmental approval. The position of a Special Envoy of the President of Russian Federation for Relations with International Organizations was created. That position was given to Anatoly B. Chubais, a politician of a controversial reputation but extensive administrative experience. The head of state’s public statements increasingly focus on the sustainable development problems. His September address delivered at the Eastern Economic Forum testifies to that. Of note is also Mikhail V. Mishustin’s statement delivered on 20 September 2021 about the formation of a working group on energy transition in the government (to be) headed by the First Deputy Prime Minister Andrey R. Belousov. In his remarks, Andrey R. Belousov emphasized that today we are looking at arranging the transition of the world’s leading economies to the new technological paradigm based on minimization of the use of fossil energy sources. In terms of the scale of change, the Deputy Prime Minister emphasized, this process is comparable to the industrial revolution of the 18-19th centuries or the scientific and technological revolution of the second half of the 20th century. This is accompanied by an exacerbated competition on the global market when the Russian Federation is being imposed foreign schemes and solutions. “In this regard,” Mr. Belousov pointed out, “it is critically important that Russia, first, was among the leaders of that global process and second, has formed its own energy transition agenda in the context of global discussion.”[16] A pivot on the designated course (and an abrupt one at that) was made by the current U.S. president. One of the first steps of his administration was the re-signing of the Paris Climate Accord revoked during Donald Trump’s presidency. The U.S. Security Council now has a new position with the function of coordinating the climate change response policy (the United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate). It was filled by John Kerry, the former State of Secretary, senator, and a renowned politician from the Democratic Party. Trust in the Wisdom of the State In search of the mechanism of implementing the transition to the sustainable development platform the expert community in many countries is increasingly leaning towards the restoration of an active role of the state. The Neo-Keynesian, neo-dirigiste trend is becoming dominant in the economic thinking of the “collective West” zone and, perhaps, by extension in the Social Studies, gradually phasing out representatives of neoclassical economics, the recently reigning neoliberalism. That symptomatic circumstance was justifiably pointed out by the President of the Russian Federation when delivering his address at the 2021 online session of the Davos Economic Forum[17]. Not only the U.S.A. but also the European Union’s orbit has been increasingly resorting to the experience of the 1930s, to the formulas that were tried out by Franklin Delano Roosevelt and ensured the successful recovery of the American economy from the Great Depression. The lessons of that era are being actively discussed in connection with choosing the “keys” to the “gates” blocking the way out of the deadlock caused by the confluence of the environmental, economic, and even partially moral and political crisis (the value system crisis). This is particularly pronounced in the changing climate of international communication. This gives rise to a destructive process called divergence. To support the above-mentioned points, we deem it appropriate to quote a UNCTAD report summing up the sentiment in the expert circles that make up the most part of the international community. The 2019 report stated: “restoring ‘faith in the wisdom and the power of Government’ needs to be the first order of business of the international community,” followed by “If we want to reverse the polarization of income within and across countries, create a stable financial system that serves the productive economy, mitigate the threats and seize the opportunities associated with new technologies, and undertake massive investments in clean energy, transportation and food systems, we need a Global Green New Deal.”[18] The interest in F.D. Roosevelt’s presidency is well noticeable in the United States themselves, all the more so after the electoral victory of the Democratic candidate Joe Biden. The Democratic Party traditionally demonstrates esteem for FDR’s legacy, particularly in its left wing. Namely, among the representatives of the circles that have been commonly referred to as progressivists, whose conceptual discourse lies between the ideological and political center and the left-of-center. Back at the time, progressivism attempted to become mainstream. It is known that Barack Obama addressed a proposal to Chile’s socialist president Michele Bachelet to hold an international progressivist forum under double initiative. The plan for the forum included establishing a kind of international. At the time Bachelet refrained from demonstrating too much activity on this track, but the ground for progressivism in the political life of many countries was preserved. And dare we say that the sustainable development concept has all the chances to enrich the ideological message of progressivism. This is testified by the book by Jeremy Rifkin[19], a well-known economist representing the left wing of the Democratic Party, which is essentially devoted to translating the sustainable development concept into language of internationalized progressivism. The coverage of the wave of broad international recognition of the imperatives of sustainable development will de-jure and de-facto be detrimental without the “green deal” adopted by the European Union after Ursula von der Leyen came to manage it as President of the European Commission. The European Union rolls out a mechanism of economic and institutional incentives and disincentives pushing for decarbonization and achievement of carbon neutrality (the balance between emissions and greenhouse gas absorption). One of the key instruments is the carbon tax that substantially obstructs and raises prices for exports from the hydrocarbons producing countries or the countries whose industry is based on their use. Russia is among the leading countries in that group, in other words, it is in the serious risk zone. Under the Brussels scenario of the Russian Federation, Russian enterprises will have to pay multi-billion tribute to the EU member countries. Otherwise, our exporters will become not only the subject of restrictive tariffs, but also some additional sanction(-based) pressure, and a politicized one at that. This will inevitably be followed by Russia’s reduced competitive ability on the global market. Anatoly B. Chubais’s critical address at the Eastern Economic Forum is telling in this regard. Its message is: our strategy does not take into consideration the demands of sustainable development. Stating his case, he gave an example with the recently developed and adopted strategy of coal industry development. In it, he emphasized the growing shipments to the People’s Republic of China, while China itself has adopted a course for a drastic reduction for coal consumption. However, the daunting challenges facing us in the future are not reduced to external problems only. We should change the industrial structure of the economy as well as build up compensating facilities on the low-carbon basis in accordance with the trends of the technological revolution. The course for building up the agrarian potential in accordance with the repositioning of the agricultural reclamation boundaries is already being implemented and is yielding good results. A whole different situation is with the infrastructure of the Russian North. It is under the threat of progressing destruction, given not only erosion but also an apparent lack of permafrost. We are looking at enormous expenses and a dramatic technological refurbishment, primarily on construction and transport. Alas, global warming is merciless and gives us no breaks. Yet, we still must understand that it also gives chances for implementation. The case of the Northern Sea Route is very instructive in this regard. Climate change promises it a new lease of life with the possibility of all-year-round navigation. For that we will certainly require hefty expenses and out-of-the-box solutions to technological problems. But it is worth it, as it will our country a strategic competitive advantage. Thus, regardless of subjective intentions and former (albeit theoretical) ideas of the political will of those at the top, we are looking at a large-scale conversion in our economy. And that means that Russia must launch the strategic planning mechanism. Alas, we are still in the grip of short-term (market) conditions/environment/situation and the faith in the “hand steering.” Noteworthy is Vladimir Putin’s address at the International Forum “Russian Energy Week” delivered on 13 October 2021. First, the Russian President admitted high risks associated with global warming, since, as he pointed out, the average annual temperature rises 2.5 times faster than the global one. Second, he expressed the state’s political will to rally all the country’s existing possibilities for a large-scale preventive measure program aimed to achieve climate neutrality by no later than 2060 (the balance of the emissions and greenhouse gas absorption). Meanwhile, the problems of sustainable development are becoming new grounds for political and ideological rivalry. A case in point is the April climate summit that the newly elected U.S. administration has rushed in to convene that took office after the electoral victory in the end of 2021. Symptomatic is the overstepping of the summit’s organizers beyond the boundaries of the UN that to date, in implementing the status of universal international organization, has been securing a consensus-based mapping of the sustainable development priorities and the search for an adequate mechanism of implementing the adopted measures to the international community. Washington has decided to take advantage of the universal concern with global warming to restore its shaken leadership. From the position of the national interests of the Russian Federation and the universally significant targets of international community we do not deem it reasonable to leave the response to a global existential threat at the mercy of unilateral, oftentimes egocentric approach.

About the authors

Vladimir M. Davydov

Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia

ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3053-5087

Corresponding Member of Russian Academy of Sciences, Doctor of Economics, Full Professor, Head of Ibero-american Studies Department, Faculty of Economics, Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University), Head of the Institute of Latin America of the Russian Academy of Sciences - Editor-in-chief, RUDN Journal of Economics

6 Miklukho-Maklaya St, Moscow, 117198, Russian Federation

Yuriy N. Moseykin

Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia

Author for correspondence.
ORCID iD: 0000-0002-1285-1473

Doctor of economics, Full Professor, Dean of the Economic Faculty

6 Miklukho-Maklaya St, Moscow, 117198, Russian Federation


Copyright (c) 2022 Davydov V.M., Moseykin Y.N.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

This website uses cookies

You consent to our cookies if you continue to use our website.

About Cookies