Cablegate: In Moscow, Green Consciousness Slowly Taking Root

DE RUEHMO #3693/01 3570424
R 220424Z DEC 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

MOSCOW 00003693 001.2 OF 003


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Slowly but surely, green practices are taking
root in Moscow. Even the most ardent of Moscow's capitalist
consumerists can no longer ignore the region's rapid environmental
degradation as the once fish-chock streams and mushroom-rich forests
that attracted flocks to build mini-mansions outside the city turn
into seemingly unredeemable cesspools and unofficial dumps.
Overfilling landfills concern some, increased interaction with the
better environmental conditions and practices of "green" Europeans
spurs others, while saving money interests almost everyone.
Astounding rates of energy consumption by buildings prompt
commercial developers to consider the energy reductions of
sustainable design. EST explored two areas where Moscow's greening
should, in theory, be easiest to implement: waste management and
energy efficient buildings. END SUMMARY.

Three Options to Relieve Overflowing Moscow Landfills
--------------------------------------------- --------

2. (U) With the 20 active landfills in the Moscow area at or close
to capacity, Moscow city authorities and environmental groups are
actively exploring how to manage the approximately 24 million tons
of solid waste that Muscovites and businesses in Moscow produce
annually (as of 2008):

-- Few advocate transporting waste to landfills outside the city
because transportation is too expensive.

-- The Moscow city government proposed building nine incinerator
plants in the Moscow area by 2015 to burn waste. Environmentalists
publicly opposed this option, arguing that incinerators discharge as
many as 24 different hazardous pollutants into the atmosphere.
According to Greenpeace, installing nine incinerator plants will
cost nearly $2.7 billion (75.5 billion rubles), and still leave 12
percent of the waste to be disposed.

-- Greenpeace favors sorting and recycling plants, which would cost
no more than $2 billion (55 billion rubles) and leave only 4 percent
of the waste in Moscow. In 2008, Moscow city authorities announced
a plan to set up eight recycling facilities in each district of the
city by 2012, which would double the Moscow's recycling capacity.
In addition, there are currently 2,000 machines around Moscow that
exchange empty cans for cash. But at only 1 cent (30 kopeks) per
can, the only people who seem motivated to deposit cans are the

So What Happens to Waste?

3. (SBU) There are three waste management companies in Moscow, all
controlled by the Moscow city government, that collect, sort,
process, and transport large quantities of waste. Most waste
management organizations in Moscow only perform one of these stages.
The Embassy has contracted with a semi-private company,
Moreservices, since 1993 to transport and sort the 19,500 cubic
meters of waste the Embassy community produces annually.
Moreservices, registered in Delaware, was created in 2001 through a
merger of the Moscow city government residential waste management
organization and a private company that transported industrial
waste. Moscow city authorities license Moreservices, appoint and
supervise some of its officials, and set pollution limits with which
it must comply.

4. (SBU) On November 25, Andrey Kakhanov, General Contractor for
Moreservices, guided EST intern and a GSO employee through
Moreservices's northern Moscow waste processing facility where the
Embassy's and other industrial trash is received. Moreservices
processes approximately 60,000 tons of waste per year, or 180 tons
per day. As he led them through the cavernous, dimly lit warehouse,
Kakhanov noted that although it covers an entire city block, the
warehouse is not big enough to deal with the current volume of
waste. His point was proven by the twenty-foot-high pyramids of
unsorted waste that covered the entire facility. Approximately five
non-ethnic Russian employees, wearing no protective gear,
hand-sorted pieces of wood, cardboard, and plastic to be pressed
into blocks. They placed the remaining items on a conveyor belt
from which five additional employees hand-sorted paper, aluminum,
glass, and plastic bottles into separate compartments for compacting
into blocks. The waste blocks are transported to a landfill or

MOSCOW 00003693 002.2 OF 003

recycling facility every two weeks. The remaining 30 percent of
waste is then ground in a separation drum to compress and extract
compostable matter. The compressed waste is transported to a

5. (U) Although Moreservices recycles 50-60 percent of the
industrial waste it collects, it can only recycle 5-10 percent of
the residential waste. Large pieces of industrial waste are easier
to separate and transport. Residential waste is often soiled,
difficult to sort, and not substantial enough to be worth the cost
of transporting it regularly to a sorting facility. Moreservices
sends glass to the Moscow Electric Bulb Plant to be recycled into
light bulbs. Paper products are recycled into cardboard, toilet
paper, or paper and fabrics for construction. Unsoiled metal and
plastic are used for food packaging, and soiled material is often
used for industrial or construction purposes.

6. (U) If it had not been for the financial crisis, Kakhanov had
hoped to build cardboard and polymer recycling facilities and
construct another waste sorting complex. Moreservices has installed
machines for compressing waste on-site at some industries such as
the large grocery stores Auchan and Metro to expedite their waste
sorting and collection. Employees are trained to use the machines,
and companies are given discounts for using them.

Green Buildings Potential Source of Huge Savings
--------------------------------------------- ---

7. (U) The comprehensive World Bank Group September 2008 study
"Energy Efficiency in Russia: Untapped Reserves"
( rsefp.nsf/AttachmentsByTitle/
FINAL_EE_report_Engl.pdf/ $FILE/Final_EE_report_engl.pdf) grabbed
headlines with its findings that Russia can save 45 percent of its
total primary energy consumption and that Russia's current energy
inefficiency is equal to the annual primary energy consumption of
France. The study highlighted that the most significant barriers to
energy efficiency in residential housing relate to building
standards, public behavior, and difficulties in organizing and
financing energy efficiency improvements in common areas. Declaring
that strong GOR leadership is needed to attract energy efficiency
investment, the study recommended that the GOR create a dedicated
energy efficiency agency to develop and implement a comprehensive
energy efficiency policy for Russia and start collecting reliable
statistics. The study listed several low-cost measures the GOR can
take to deliver rapid results and increase political support,
including launching an energy efficiency information awareness
campaign, issuing flexible budgeting and procurement rules in public
organizations, and transforming municipal heat suppliers into
commercial entities.

8. (U) Energy costs in Russia, though growing, are still
artificially low. At the October 29 Green Buildings Conference
organized by Carrier Corporation, EST intern and Foreign Commercial
Service staff learned about new directions for energy efficiency in
Russian commercial development and how green buildings' sustainable
design reduces the amount of energy buildings consume, currently at
a staggering 40 percent of all of Russia's energy consumption. Like
the World Bank study, experts at Carrier's conference stressed that
systemic government support in the form of subsidies for energy
efficient green buildings and renewable energy, standards, and
regulations is very important. Experts noted that past subsidies
for cheap energy sources such as coal inhibited the development of
ecologically friendly technology and more expensive energy sources.

NGO Action Good; Government Action Essential and Beginning
--------------------------------------------- ---------

9. (SBU) Greenpeace Russia's campaign director Ivan Blokov told EST
that it is crucial for the Russian government (GOR) to enforce
energy regulations and observe them itself. He has been arguing for
the introduction of strict regulations for energy consumption and
tax benefits for green initiatives. Although a range of regulations
have been adopted by the Moscow City authorities, the federal
government has not initiated similar action at the national level.
Yevgeniy Shvarts, Director of Conservation Policy at the World
Wildlife Federation (WWF), would include on his list of the top five
environmental issues in Russia the GOR's lack of clear goals for
energy efficiency and environmental policy. It is so important that
WWF is getting more involved in such issues as waste management in
order to reduce Russia's environmental footprint.

MOSCOW 00003693 003.2 OF 003

10. (U) Moreservices' Kakhanov expressed appreciation for
environmental organizations like Greenpeace and WWF that work
towards a cleaner and more balanced environment, commenting that it
is crucial for someone to ask the hard questions about environmental
standards. But in order for there to be significant change, he
argued, the government, private, and non-profit sectors must also be
involved. Kakhanov and other contacts were unanimous: because
Russian businesses take their lead from the government, decisive
government action is essential. In addition, waste management
companies and ordinary citizens will only go green if they have an
economic benefit in doing so.

11. (U) President Medvedev has rolled out several green initiatives.
Calling for an action plan to halve Russia's energy intensity by
2020, he hosted a June 3 conference at the Kremlin at which
ministers, agency heads, and select NGO representatives discussed
sustainable environment and energy efficiency. While emphasizing
the negative effect of substandard environmental conditions and the
dangerous levels of pollution on Russia's economic competitiveness,
Medvedev called for industrial regulations, waste limits, and
standards for water, air, and soil quality. Importantly, the 2009
budget includes funds for energy efficiency projects,
environmentally clean production technologies, and the incorporation
of environmental curriculum into education standards.

12. (U) Deputy Department Director Mikhail Travkin of the Ministry
of Natural Resources and Ecology told Carrier conference attendees
that his Ministry is working on standards. Gennadiy Smaga of the
Federal Agency on Science and Innovation outlined the stages Russia
needs to pass through to adopt green technology. First, the GOR
must establish, monitor, and enforce regulations and establish a
standardized national plan for utilizing energy efficient
technology. Then, manufacturers must develop the capacity to use
green technology efficiently. Finally, the GOR must promote the
benefits of green technology to consumers and in turn stimulate
market demand for green products.

13. (SBU) Comment: Russia has two of the elements it needs to make
real progress in "greening": growing government commitment to
introduce greater energy efficiency and improved standards, and a
burgeoning public concern about the deteriorating environment.
Non-governmental organizations can play a critical role in helping
to advance public understanding and action. But aggressive
environmental advocacy is risky. Activist Mikhail Beketov has faced
continuous and escalating pressure since he began using his one-man
newspaper in 2007 to protest plans to clear part of the 2,400-acre
Khimki forest northwest of Moscow for a new highway linking Moscow
and St. Petersburg. On November 13, he was found brutally beaten
and was hospitalized, in a coma, and his right leg amputated. End


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