Chapter 3: Climate Policy and Change

Russia and Poland’s positions on the global climate politics are rather similar.  Both suffered economic recessions in the early nineties resulting from the collapse of communism.  Although the paths of the countries have diverged in the past decade, both have moved away from outdated, inefficient soviet technology.  This, in conjunction with the economic recession, has greatly reduced greenhouse gas emission in both countries.  Both have ratified the UN Framework Convention and signed the Kyoto Protocol and favor the adoption of the Kyoto protocol.  Because much of the countries land area lies below sea level, they may face massive flooding in the event of global warming and sea level rise.  Under the Kyoto Protocol, both Poland and Russia are EITs (Economies in Transition), allowing them somewhat more flexibility in compliance with emission standards.  This, along with political pressure from neighboring European nations, has led to avid support of the Kyoto Protocol.  By examining the politics and conditions of Russia and Poland, we hope to address the similarities and differences of the nations’ climate change policies as well as possible ecological and social consequences of global warming.


The 1997 constitution of Poland states that the Republic of Poland assures the protection of the environment through sustainable development and that policies are aimed at ecological security for present and future generations (Ministry of the Environment 2001).  While many members of the scientific community may consider sustainable development an empty phrase, it is unusual to find clauses of environmental protection in the constitution of a nation, since typically, national constitutions lay the framework for the legal structure of a country.  The definition of environmental protection, according to the government of Poland, is “the right and duty of every citizen” (Ministry of the Environment 2001).  From a legal standpoint, this obligates Poles to protect and preserve their natural habitats, as existing legislation treats transgressions against the environment as a criminal act.  Ramifications may be as drastic as complete cessation of manufacturing activity if a business commits a harsh enough violation.  Other deterrents are fines on both industrial and municipal enterprises for emissions of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxides (Ministry of the Environment 2001 pg 20).  These funds, and financial assistance from environmental groups, both national (governmental) and international, help reduce and mediate the emissions of greenhouse gasses.  As unique and interesting as these laws may seem, no specific case studies or examples of their enforcement are available.  In theory they mark an exciting step in environmental policy. However, their effectiveness is only speculative.

Before Poland signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1998, it ratified the UN Framework Convention in 1994, thus binding the nation to further negotiations concerning global climate change (UNFCCC 1996).  Under this agreement, Poland was held to the same requirements as Annex I countries (reduction of greenhouse gas emission rates to 1990 levels and federal monitoring of emissions), except its base line year is 1988 instead of 1990 (Ministry of the Environment 2001).  This takes into account the drastic economic recession (1990-1991) following the collapse of the soviet system.  During this period Poland’s economic productivity and greenhouse gas emission fell dramatically.  The difference in baseline years allows for economic recovery and further development of the nation.

            In order to meet this goal, Poland has instated policies targeting industry, transportation, power generation, and agriculture and silviculture (Ministry of the Environment 2001).  These policies include updating inefficient technologies, constructing well insulated buildings, decreasing fossil fuel consumption, and increasing Poland’s carbon sink by expanding its forests.

In the industrial sector, the restructuring of the Polish economy has been quite disruptive.  However, the new government has placed an emphasis on increasing efficiency and improving environmental controls by employing higher technologies.  The Company Technological Assessment and Cleaner Production Programme have, since the early 1990s, audited companies and encouraged updating antiquated and broken down production systems (Ministry of the Environment 2001).  Ten Cleaner Production Centres in Poland (two national and eight regional) concern themselves with limitation of energy use and water resources as well as training manufacturing personnel.  Additionally, they implement environmental controls for reduction of pollutants (gaseous, and solid) and consumption of resources in production (both raw materials and energy).  This, along with restructuring of environmentally wayward centrally controlled companies, has lead to a decrease in environmental degradation in the industry sector (Ministry of the Environment 2001).

The power generation sector is closely linked with the industrial sector in that both have been subject to similar laws and innovations.  The Act on Energy Law provided for the conversion of the energy sector from a centralized entity into one ruled by free market and for the implementation of energy saving measures.  Outdated, non-competitive steam and water boilers have been shut down in favor of more efficient, market priced systems.  This involves integration of hydrocarbon fuels (primarily natural gas) in the total fuel consumption (Ministry of the Environment 2001), which formerly consisted nearly entirely of brown coal (UNFCCC 1996).  As older, inefficient systems are discontinued, the system becomes overall environmentally more friendly.  In the future, Poland hopes also to integrate renewable resources into its energy matrix.  However renewable resources are not widely used at this time.

Transportation Policy, a document placing stringent guidelines on companies producing means of transportation and on vehicles themselves may largely affect the transportation sector.  This act, if approved by parliament, would impose emission caps and weight limits on vehicles.  A licensing/ certification program would enforce the policy, and violators would be subject to fines.  Additionally, Transportation Policy would work to replace oil and gas powered rail systems with electric ones, and outmoded aircraft with more efficient ones.  The Ministry of Transportation has proposed an update in the highway system that takes the flow of traffic into account (Ministry of the Environment 2001).  This would decrease traffic backups and lead to more efficient gas mileage in existing automobiles.

Assumption for social and economic policy for rural areas, agriculture and food economy until the year 2000, adopted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Economy, provides for research of greenhouse gas emissions in agricultural production as well as for regulation of soil quality and fertilizer use.  Silvicultural policy’s main intent is to preserve existing functional forests and reforestation of designated agricultural lands (Ministry of the Environment 2001).  To ensure the health of the forest is to limit pollutant affecting forest growth and function and increase the uptake of carbon dioxide within Polish borders.  In this way, Poland hopes in decrease its net production of greenhouse gasses.

            Poland has, on average, one-third the water resources of other European nations.  Water levels tend to fluctuate between extremes, causing times of alternating floods and droughts.  Research suggests that Poland will become drier with increased temperatures, thus greatly amplifying existing water shortages (UNFCCC Review Team 1998, Ministry of the Environment 2001).  A more in depth discussion of water resources is found in chapter four.

Changes in the water budget, along with rising temperatures and concentration of carbon dioxide, would most severely affect agriculture.  With poor soil, already susceptible to changes in water availability, the impacts of global change may be greater on Poland’s agricultural production than on the primary production of other European nations (Ministry of the Environment 2001).  However, a warmer climate and extended growing season may counteract agricultural losses in some regions of the country.  The true affect of climate change on Polish agriculture remains to be seen.

            These changes extend themselves to Poland’s extensive forests.  Changes in temperature and water availability will affect the type of species that can exist in a habitat.  While sensitive species will perish, more tolerant species will prevail (Ministry of the Environment 2001).  This may or may not drastically change the face and/or overall health of the Polish ecosystem.  Climate change may lead to fragmentation, susceptibility to natural disaster, and perhaps a decrease in biodiversity (Ministry of the Environment 2001).  This is especially important to Poland not only from an ecological standpoint but also and economic one.  If the country plans to increase its carbon uptake through its forests, it will need to have healthy, functioning plants to metabolize carbon dioxide.  Under stress (such as heat and lack of water), plants close their stomata and cease to take in carbon dioxide, eliminating their uptake.

Additionally, Poland’s entire coastline may be threatened by sea level rise as an effect of global warming (Ministry of the Environment 2001).  With a one-meter rise in current sea level, seven percent of the total area would be underwater (173 billion zlotys cost) and considerably more (approximately 104 zlotys in cost) would be in danger of major periodic flooding.  In order to prevent against this possible disaster, an extensive system of dikes, seawalls, offshore breakwaters, and drainage pumps costing perhaps 34.5 billion zlotys is proposed (Ministry of the Environment 2001).

            In order to better understand the effects and extent of climate change in Poland, the government has sanctioned research.  Two greenhouse gas-monitoring stations, the Kasprowy Wierch monitoring station for the atmosphere and the Complex environmental monitoring station – Puszeza Borecka, have been established in Poland.  These stations have monitored levels of CO2 since the early nineties and other greenhouse gasses, such as CH4, NO2, and SF6 since the mid nineties.  Both are situated far away from possible human sources and act as a means of determining the anthropogenic contribution to the atmospheric concentration of these gasses (Ministry of the Environment 2001).

            Polish universities and scientific institutions also conduct scientific climate change research.  This includes statistical analysis of climate variability and applied, physical, dynamic, and regional climatology (Ministry of the Environment 2001).  These examine the emission rates of the nation and their probable effects on Poland’s climate as well as other notable atmospheric disasters such as the ozone profile and its effect on UVA and UVB radiation.  Also, climatological studies assess the formation of Poland’s climate, and its relation to the world’s climate patterns.  These fields of study have recently expanded to encompass anthropogenic changes in the atmosphere and their changes on Polish ecosystems, economy, and agricultural production (Ministry of the Environment 2001).

            The strength of Poland’s environmentalism lies in the lobbying power of numerous NGOs (Ministry of the Environment 2001) and political pressure from the European Union.  Polish NGOs work to popularize climate change legislation and increase awareness in the public sector.  Poland’s educational system includes ecological education and knowledge of environmental threats (Ministry of the Environment 2001).  Additionally, NGOs meet with governmental officials to discuss current climate change issues and concerns.  Another source of environmental motivation is the European Union.  Because Poland desires EU membership, it is heavily pressured to comply with EU regulations, standards, and policies.  The European Union is an avid proponent of the Kyoto Protocol.  Therefore, Poland is compelled to support reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Poland may stand to lose as global change changes global climate patterns.  As a precaution, the nation has therefore instated policies to limit greenhouse gas emissions and protect the environment.  It has also founded monitoring systems and funded and conducted research to increase our understanding of climate science.  The national government’s policy is strongly pro-environment and Poland has signed the Kyoto Protocol.  Whether or not it is ratified and put into effect is yet to be seen.


Russia has been involved with climate politics on an international level for many years.  Being one of the super powers during the cold war allowed Russia a heightened level participation in all international events.  This clout allowed Russia to participate in the ground levels of international climate politics.  Its involvement included participation in the Rio conference in 1992 and subsequent participation in the Kyoto conference in 1997.  Russia has signed the Kyoto Protocol, but has yet to ratify it.  Currently, Russia remains committed to the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol, and has displayed this commitment by continuing refinement of the original document.

            On domestic level Russia has seen a plethora of changes since climate change surfaced as an international issue.  In 1990 the unraveling of the Soviet Union laid the groundwork for the tumultuous events that have continued into the present.  The most important of these environmental events was the drastic reduction of green house gas (GHG) emissions, specifically carbon dioxide.  The reduction in carbon dioxide emissions was attributable to the economic recession that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Carbon dioxide emissions had fallen approximately 20% below 1990 levels by 1995.  It is estimated that full ascension to 1990 levels of carbon dioxide emissions will not occur until 2010.  An important calculation of carbon dioxide emissions is the amount emitted per person.  Russia emitted 10.7 metric tones of carbon dioxide per capita in 1997 (World Bank 2001).  The current trend in Russia is towards a population decrease via negative birthrate and high mortality rate.  This demographic trend will assist Russia in reducing its overall carbon dioxide emissions by limiting the number of individuals emitting carbon dioxide.  Even if the country’s level of technology remains the same, it could expect reduced overall emissions due to a smaller population. 

            In addition to Russia’s decrease in emissions, its carbon dioxide balance is greatly affected by its vast forested area.  Russia currently contains around 21% of the earth’s forest (USAID 2001).  This massive allocation of forested area acts as a carbon sink, possibly strengthening Russia’s overall carbon dioxide position.  Currently, Russia is attempting to strengthen its forest system by replanting previously logged areas (USAID 2001).  The atmosphere is globally connected therefore it is important to mention Russia’s domestic energy supplies, even though they not all domestically consumed.  While Russia may have reduced carbon dioxide emissions itself, it exports large amounts of energy worldwide.  The European Union’s overall energy need is partially meet with Russian supplies.  The EU currently meets 40% of its annual energy requirement with Russian energy imports.

            Vladimir Putin’s domestic policy served Russia’s environment a blow on May 23, 2000.  Putin dissolved Russia’s State Committee for Environmental Protection, the chief agency responsible for environmental protection in Russia (Nierenberg 2000).  Putin subsequently transferred the authority for environmental regulation to the Ministry of Natural Resources, an agency previously charged with distributing land and raw materials for mining and logging (Nierenberg 2000).  It is suspected that the country’s large energy and mining companies facilitated this move.  Although Russia’s environmental protection policy leaves much to be desired, it maintains significant domestic climate science capacity. 

            The Russian Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring (ROSGIDROMET) is the main Russian scientific organization charged with environmental science.  ROSGIDROMET conducts a range of experimentation ranging from weather patterns analysis to forecasts of environmental pollution impacts.  It represents Russia at the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).  Additionally the head of ROSGIDROMET is a member of the WMO executive council (“International Cooperation” 2001).  This agency currently works in concert with many other groups world wide, including the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States, and the United Nations (“International Cooperation” 2001). 

Domestic effects of climate change will vary across the expanse of Russia.  Russia has every climate type except tropical rain forest within its borders.  Natural effects will include changes to the permafrost, which is primarily located in the western part of the country, but covers 60% of the Russian land area (Shvidenko 1998).  Sea level rise will affect many of the port cities and military bases located on the coast.  The overall temperature rise will affect the natural cycles of rivers and streams that drain into the Arctic Ocean.  A southerly warming will melt inland areas first, but leave ice dams at the northern mouths of the rivers in place.  This will effectively flood vast areas of the permafrost and plains.  The western, or European, area of Russia is the country’s breadbasket.  This region is generally water poor, so global warming and decreased precipitation could drastically affect the regions agricultural productivity.  Overall, Russia is in a position of wait and see with respect to global climate change.  Russia, as with many nations, only really endorses measures of change which either do not affect or advance its current position. 


            Both Poland and Russia presently face similar economical concerns, but their environmental policies differ greatly.  Russia has adopted, for the most part, a wait-and-see policy while Poland has taken a more progressive route of environmental protection and activism.  As a result, Poland’s environmental programs are stronger than Russia’s.  This may be of consequence in later years, since both nations face potentially disastrous floods and other problems associated with global warming and sea level rise.  Published results of climate change studies, though based on scientific inquiry, are not always 100% accurate.  The true severity and consequence of climate change events will only be revealed with time.

Though faced with potential ecological and economic disaster, both Poland’s and Russia’s support of Kyoto is primarily economic and political.  Russia contains 21% of the world’s forests, and its CO2 emission levels are not projected to reach 1990 levels until 2010.  Additionally, Russia holds large reserves of natural gas, which will become highly marketable as Annex I countries struggle to meet their reduction goals.  Much of Russia’s infrastructure is several decades old.  The country stands to benefit and greatly reduce future emissions by advancing directly to cleaner technologies.  Since Poland hopes to joint the European Union, external political pressure, in addition to internal pressure from more than 1000 Polish environmental NGOs fosters support for the Kyoto Protocol.  Like Russia, Poland’s greenhouse gas emissions dropped significantly in the early nineties.  Its carbon dioxide emissions have, for the most part, leveled off as of 1996 and are not projected to rise dramatically within the next few decades.  With projected economic growth and development, Poland will need a mere three percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions to comply with the Kyoto Protocol.  Poland, like Russia, stands to benefit from a massive technological overhaul, updating and eliminating antiquated infrastructure.  World Bank and UNFCCC are providing both nations with funding to purchase and implement these technologies, making the transition even more lucrative.  Compliance with the Kyoto Protocol would not greatly strain either country and is therefore relatively popular.  Overall, the economic, political, and environmental factors in Russia and Poland tend to support the Kyoto protocol and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.


Works Cited:

International Cooperation.  (n.d.) Retrieved October 2001, from The Russian Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring (ROSGIDROMET) Web site:

Ministry of the Environment.  (2001).  Republic of Poland: Third National Communication to the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  Last visited December 2001. 

Nierenberg, Danielle. (2000). Russia Axes its Environment Agency.  World Watch, 13,  (5), 8.

Nondek, L., & Moreno, R. & Rosland, A., &Solsbery, L.,  &Pinna, A., &Assunaco L.  (1997). Russian Federation. New York: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  Available on the web at:

USAID & the Environment:  What We Do Reducing the Threat of Global Climate Change. (n.d.) Retrieved October 2001, from The Untied States Agency for International Developent  Web site:

UNFCCC.  (1996).  Executive Summary of the National Communication of Poland.  Last visited December 2001. 

UNFCCC Review Team.  (1998).  Poland: Report on the in-depth review of the National Communication of Poland.  Last visited December 2001. 

UNFCC. (2001).  Russian Federation.  Retrieved Octover 2001, from The UNFCC Web site:

World Bank. (2001). World Development Indicators 2001. Washington D.C. : World Bank.