Russia unveils plan to adapt to climate change

A woman walks in the Izmailovsky park in Moscow on January 5, 2020. Climate change poses risks to public health, endangers permafrost, increases the likelihood of infections and natural disasters. (AFP)
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Updated 06 January 2020

Russia unveils plan to adapt to climate change

  • Russia is warming 2.5 times quicker than the planet on average

MOSCOW: The Russian government has published a plan to adapt the economy and population to climate change, aiming to mitigate damage but also “use the advantages” of warmer temperatures.

The document, published on the government website on Saturday, outlines a plan of action and admits that changes in the climate have had a “prominent and increasing effect” on socioeconomic development, people’s lives, health and industry.

Russia is warming 2.5 times quicker than the planet on average, and the two-year “first stage” plan is an indication that the government officially recognizes this as a problem, even though President Vladimir Putin denies that human activity is the cause.

It lists preventive measures such as dam building or switching to more drought-resistant crops, as well as crisis preparations including emergency vaccinations or evacuations in case of a disaster.

The plan is needed to “lower the losses and use the advantages.”

It says climate change poses risks to public health, endangers permafrost, increases the likelihood of infections and natural disasters. It also can lead to different species being pushed out of their usual habitats.

Possible “positive” effects are decreased energy use in cold regions, expanding agricultural areas and navigational opportunities in the Arctic Ocean.

The document lays the groundwork for various agencies and stresses the need for more research on economic vulnerabilities, without detailing financing.

Among a list of 30 measures, the government will calculate risks of Russian products becoming uncompetitive and failing to meet new climate-related standards as well as prepare new educational materials to teach climate change in schools.

Russia is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, with vast Arctic regions and infrastructure built over permafrost. Recent floods and wildfires have been among the planet’s worst climate-related disasters.

Russia formally adopted the Paris climate accord in September of last year and criticized the US withdrawal from the pact.

Putin, however, has repeatedly denied the scientific consensus that climate change is primarily caused by man-made emissions, blaming it last month on some “processes in the universe.”

He has also criticized Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg, painting her as an uninformed impressionable teenager possibly being “used” in someone’s interests.

He also voiced skepticism on numerous occasions about solar and wind energy, expressing alarm about the danger of turbines to birds and worms, causing them to “come out of the ground” by vibrating.

While there is evidence of that large wind-power installations can pose a risk to birds, known research does not suggest they harm worms.

On Sunday, Russia’s meteorological service predicted temperatures up to 16 degrees Celsius higher than normal Monday and Tuesday, when Russia celebrates Orthodox Christmas.

“Weather on Christmas will be warmer than normal almost on the entire Russian territory,” it said on its website.

The service said temperatures were expected to be four to eight degrees higher than normal in the European part of the country, and 10 to 16 degrees higher beyond the Urals.

Why some investors are turning bullish on China

Updated 40 sec ago

Why some investors are turning bullish on China

NEW YORK: China’s stocks were among the first hit by fears of the coronavirus outbreak. Some investors are now betting they may be among the first to recover.

The two major benchmarks for stocks traded within China are down less than 1.9 percent year-to-date, while benchmarks in the US and Europe are down 7 percent or more over the same period.

Fund managers and analysts say the disparity in the stock market performance reflects expectations that the impact of the virus is being contained in China, while the full extent of the outbreak in the US and Europe remains unknown. Those fears are especially potent given that major US stock benchmarks were trading at all-time highs within the past two weeks, helping fuel a more than 12 percent decline in the S&P 500 since Feb. 19.

Chinese stocks, by comparison, had been battered for months by concerns over the impact of the trade war between the US and China. The CSI 300 remains 0.3 percent below where it was this time last year, while the US benchmark S&P 500 is up 6.7 percent over the same time.

The market was looking for a reason to sell and coronavirus is a pretty significant reason, given its potential to disrupt consumer spending and global supply chains, said Aditya Kapoor, a portfolio manager of the $1.9 billion Ivy Emerging Markets Fund.

China has instituted quarantines in major cities and suspended schools to contain the virus. The number of new deaths in mainland China due to the virus stood at 29 on Wednesday, the lowest number since Jan. 28, officials said.

“We’re expecting very poor results in most of our companies over the first and second quarter, but our working assumption is that China has it under control,” said Kapoor.

The stocks he is bullish on include cloud-based software and after-school education companies. “When schools are closed nationwide the only option to study is online, so these companies are getting a huge boost without spending the marketing dollars required because everyone is giving them a trial,” he said.

Tiffany Hsiao, portfolio manager of the $127 million Matthews China Small Companies fund, said she expects a temporary hit from the virus but expects economic activity will pick up as the benefits of the trade deal between the US and China accrue. Her fund is up nearly 13.5 percent year-to-date.

Along with online education, she is focusing on companies in the health care sector ranging from biotech to medical waste disposal. The fund’s third-largest holding is Taiwanese medical waste disposal company Sunny Friend Environmental Technology, according to Morningstar. Sunny Friend’s shares are up 6.6 percent this year.

Hsiao is also bullish on consumer companies that focus on millennials, especially those that sell ready-to-make food.

“The interesting thing about millennials in China is that a lot of them don’t know how to cook,” she said. “With coronavirus many are quarantined at home and need to make food for themselves.”

Hsiao said she is prepared to increase her positions in Chinese stocks if they follow developed markets lower.

“We are long-term investors and we see any market disruptions as opportunity to add to positions that we have convictions in,” she said.