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V. I. Kushlin
Head of the Department of State
Economy Regulation of the Russian
Presidential Academy of National
Economy and Public
Administration of the Russian
Federation, Honored Economist of
the Russian Federation and a
member of the Russian Academy of
Natural Sciences, Doctor of
Sciences, Economics, professor
“Rio +20” and the strategies of sustainable
economic development in Russia and in the world
Estimates of a new international conference on Sustainable Development in
Rio de Janeiro (June 2012), given by the experts, are of a very wide range: from
positive to negative, from the cheerful hopes about the frontiers to undisguised
skepticism and statement of lack of ideas in the resolutions of “RIO+20”, calling
for activities in the field of green economy. Nevertheless, the conference “Rio+20”
should not and cannot be considered as an event of “box-ticking” as it touches on
the most fundamental issues of our time. A novelty of the productions is seen in
the fact that the issue of sustainable development is brought to center of dispute
and making practical solutions to meet the global financial and economic crisis
erupted in 2008.
This crisis as now becoming clear is not just “an unpleasant surprise” which
one need and can rapidly eliminate. It is the fourth year that the crisis continues to
string up the economy and remains the main concern of the government and the
business of all countries. Anti-crisis measures undertaken so far have been directed
either to stabilize the banking system or to balance the social strain resulted from
unemployment and falling living standards in certain social classes, etc. But the far
it goes the clearer it becomes that eventually overcoming the crisis should be
linked to the resumption of policies for truly stable economic growth on an
international scale.
In these circumstances, in the scientific literature and in practice, the interest
in the topic of stable economic and social development increases. But herein
different participants of debate often assign different meanings to the notion of
stability which, in general, is not surprising, since the word is really
multidimensional. It is very important today to outline the multidimensionality of
relations of antirecession policy in the economy with the basic concept of
“sustainable development”, which came into circulation under the influence of
environmental, social and political demands.
The original meaning of “sustainable development”
As a reminder the idea of “sustainable development” has been put forward
by scientists and policy makers at the end of the twentieth century due to the urgent
need for accounting in the economic policies of the factors of primary resources
scarcity on Earth, and prevention of the adverse impact of economic activities on
the environment.
Used in the Russian language, the term “sustainable development” was not
quite accurate translation of the original English “sustainable development”, where
the definition of sustainable by the context would have to mean the term “viable”
in Russian, that is to express the requirement of long-term socio-economic balance
in the current and long-term economic development. But short expressing of this
idea then was not found, and the concept of «sustainable development» has been
fixed by way of accomplished fact in our language.
The idea of sustainable development came in a scientific and political turn
after the publication of the report “Our Common Future” prepared by the United
Nations World Commission on Environment and Development, under the
leadership of Gro Harlem Brundtland in 1987. The discussions resulted in setting
the corresponding belief system in press and in various forums that was been
formalized in a memorandum of the World Summit in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro
“XXI Century Agenda”. Common sense of approach worked out - the concepts of
sustainable development – is briefly expressed in the following words. “In
accordance with the requirements of sustainable development the adverse impacts
on the quality of air, water, and other natural elements are minimized so as to
sustain the ecosystem's overall integrity. In essence, sustainable development is a
process of change in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of
investments, the orientation of technological development; and institutional change
are all in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human
needs and aspirations”. [7]
I would like to stress that at the turn of the XX and XXI centuries a new
situation of critical imbalance between the real increasing and allowable load on
the biosphere arose in the world, which became the root cause of most of the
specific appearance of imbalances in the global economy and financial sector
identified with the current global crisis. Therefore, it is fully justified and
necessary that the concept of “sustainable development” in the analysis of strategic
decisions relating to overcoming the crisis is used and interpreted in the sense that
was set in “Agenda XXI century” in 1992.
International conference “Rio +20” develops this approach. At the opening
of the summit UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on to act in the name of
future generations and to be above personal interests. He stressed that a new era for
humanity started, and the former model of socio-economic development was
inefficient, as the population grew and required more resources.
In this regard, high expectations are associated with the implementation of
the “green economy” concept, which, in fact, serves as a concretization of the
general idea of sustainable development, includes the unity of economic, social and
environmental aspects of the problem of long-term development, as well as the
principle of equitable distribution of resources between generations.
The final document of the 2012 conference “The future we want” states that
the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty
eradication will improve the overall ability of rational use of natural resources with
less impact on the environment, increase resource use efficiency and reduce waste.
The recommendation is put forward to “business and industry duly and within
national law to promote sustainable development and to develop strategies for the
development of the green economy and more broad and sustainable development
as a whole”.
It is important to keep in mind the following three fundamental features
peculiar to global crisis spread in 2008 and still not subsided.
First. This crisis is not only financial, as it seemed at first, because it is the
big financial institutions that had first breakdowns in the markets, and it is a field
where primary anti-recessionary measures of governments were assigned. This is
economic (or finance and economic) recession with roots in the contradictions of
the whole process of economic reproduction. Moreover, the accumulated deep
contradictions obviously cannot be resolved quickly and will require long time,
even in terms of disclosure of their nature, let alone overcoming.
Crises, as such, are not an event that is contrary to the need for continuous
and sustainable economic development as cycling is the organic component of
economic dynamics. The typical wave-like processes in the economy were
investigated and described, having different horizon turn through time, and they
have own explanation in terms of the factors determining the configuration of
cycles. These are: short-term change of ups and downs - J. Kitchin cycles (3-4 year
duration), medium-term cycles, such as K. Zhyuglyar cycles (7-10 year duration),
the reproductive cycles of Simon Kuznets (18-25 year duration) and, finally, the
so-called “long wave” of N. D. Kondratiev of 40-60 year duration. Some
researchers are trying to find explanation of the global crisis currently combusted
in the logic context of Kondratiev cycles, referring to the “overlapping” on the
falling branch of wave of the last one of these cycles of the falling cycle part
Kitchin and Zhyuglar. However, there is no conclusive evidence for this idea yet.
There is reason to be serious about assessment of the extent of the crisis
made by Immanuel Wallerstein, a professor at Yale University, one of the highly
reputed thinkers of our time: “The crisis, which the world is immersing in, will
continue for a long time and will be very profound. He will destroy the last
pathetic support of relative economic stability - the role of the dollar as a reserve
currency guaranteeing the safety of savings. And when that happens, the main
problem of all powers of the world - from the U.S. to China, from France to Russia
and Brazil, not to mention the smaller countries, will be the need to be saved from
discontent of workers found themselves out of work and the middle class who will
lose their savings and pensions. To blow out the people's anger, the authorities are
turning to printing money and to protectionism, which act as the first line of
defense. ... Such measures may delay the threats which the authorities apprehend,
and briefly ease the fate of ordinary people. But eventually they will likely only
make matters worse. The system comes to a dead end which it will be very
difficult for the world to get out. This dead end is expressed as the more and more
wild fluctuations that almost defeat the purpose of any short-term forecasts - both
economic and political. This, in turn, will only aggravate the universal fears and
alienation of ordinary people” [1].
The second. The crisis has a global origin, as it was generated by conflicts
accumulated in the nucleus of the current system of capitalist economy, in the
system of the most developed countries, and where all the levers of management
actions on the world economy concentrate. Thus, the tails of globalization occur
when the global communications are not only for a good cause, but also for
incredibly rapid spread of contradictions broadwise. Private and local variations in
these conditions can quickly shift to a resonance throughout the system.
The third. Relief and overcoming the crisis, despite its global nature, to a
great extent today depend on the set of anti-recession measures and the content of
the long-term economic policies of individual countries. This policy cannot be
universal for all, much as some conceptualists of global governance of the world
would desire, because the differences in the initial levels of development of
countries and, consequently, in the understanding of their peoples of the future are
too significant.
Sustainability of development for developed, transitional and
developing countries
In light of the expectations of both a new (second, third, etc.) of the wave of
the crisis and the imminent surmounting the crisis, the question of the fundamental
properties arises: does mankind have today clear and unambiguous answer to the
question of what the fact “surmounting the crisis” would mean, which all seem to
aspire. Is it possible to simply restore the situation of pre-crisis status quo when
everything looked quite stable? And is such recovery the solution? In fact, there
are more and more data accumulated leading to the idea that the era of continuous
onward “progress” in the economy of all countries per the schemes of the second
half of the twentieth century, which were based on an incentive to increase own
wealth in a universal sense, is exhausting its potential. In these circumstances,
Russia and other countries which have fallen behind on many economic and
technological characteristics of highly developed world, should perform a complex
creative work related to the choice of their sustainable development strategies.
The standard of living in different parts of the world differs much, so to
maintain the social equilibrium and to overcome the existing gap in many countries
from the world average standard of living they cannot do without the stimulation of
economic growth. So finding an answer to the question of what the pace and
quality of economic growth will be optimal in different countries in terms of
sustainable development, is a very difficult task.
The establishment of the concept of sustainable development in due time
was contributed by the initiatives and activities of political science experts within
the “Club of Rome”. Its proponents, we recall, for the idea of harmonizing the
relationship between man and nature proposed in the late 1960s, governments to
mainly focus on the policy of “zero growth”. However, actually this approach was
not and can hardly be supported by all.
What economic growth rate would have been desirable for the restoration of
situation stability in global economic processes of reproduction, and what is the
role of the ecology requirements in these estimates? Can ideal parameters be
defined here based on which universal recommendations on the scope and pace of
economic growth would be formulated?
A number of publications present sets of quite categorical statements about
economic growth deterrence and provide recommendations on this subject, which
are addressed to most of the countries with transitional economies and developing
countries. Many of these recommendations, however, at detailed consideration, are
questionable as they are based solely on the experience of a limited group of highly
developed capitalism countries, i.e. the experience that cannot be replicated in the
current limit state of the resource base of the planet on a mass scale.
Yes, in recent years the pace of economic growth in developing countries
was significantly higher than in the developed countries of the West, which is
understandable in view of the start of the giant gap between them. This rapid pace
of economic growth has not caused much concern in the global expertise and
managerial environment as long as it became clear that the main stimulus to the
high rate of economic growth is the desire of rapidly developing countries (which
have, as a rule, multi-million population) to approach the standards of consumption
goods and resources per capita reached by developed countries.
That's when the discussion of problems of significant reduction in resource
consumption (primarily energy) of production was actualized in order to prevent
ecological collapse of the planet, the world remembered the “concept of zero
growth”. However, this general and theoretically well-founded formulation of the
question becomes unrealistic, once the giant initial differences between the
countries of the world on the economic level begin to be considered, which derive
conclusions about the need for forced economic growth in most developing
Today the demands of sustainable development encourage to put at the
center of analysis of the quality features of the phenomena associated with
economic growth. First, economic growth as the basis of human well-being must
be provided continuously over a very long period of time. Secondly, the economy
should be based on a waste-free (or low-waste) technologies, on closed cycles of
processing and reclamation of natural resources. Third, adverse impact on the
climate and the environment should be minimized, which becomes actual as this
impact has achieved critical scale in recent years.
Implementation of the requirements of sustainable development is
contributed by the introduction of indicators of the specific consumption of raw
materials, energy, water, etc. into particularly important controllable characteristics
of economic development. The tricky part here is that these indicators grouped by
such an integral concept as resource consumption, are linked in practice to
quantitative concept of the economic growth and to its monetary assessment.
Typically it is a measure of GDP or production volumes. Indicators of material
consumption, metal consumption, energy consumption, etc are defined per unit of
GDP and output. Among them, special attention is paid to indicators of energy
consumption and electricity consumption of production, as they reflect the level of
use of the most significant resource and factor of the modern economy.
Indicator of resource intensity is usually higher in those countries that have
relatively small GDP per capita, i.e. in underdeveloped and developing countries,
that are affected by the fact itself of the smaller scale of economy, and the fact that
developed economies in virtue of history already have more advanced and
resource-efficient technologies. The average resource intensity of products and
technologies in a relatively lagged and developing countries is 3-7 times higher
than in similar industries in developed countries. For example, the Russian per unit
of general energy consumption receive only 0.63 units of GDP, while the U.S. - 2.
9 units, OECD countries - 4.0, EU countries - 5.0, Japan - 6.7 units.
The situation is aggravated by the fact that the developed world experts
forecasts are oriented to the fact that it is the developing countries that will provide
the main contribution to world economic growth, though their development will be
more slowly than expected under influence of the crisis.
The forecast for 2020 involve expectations that in developing countries, the
rate of growth in energy consumption will be 3-3.5 times higher than in the OECD
countries1. Therefore, developing countries will have two thirds increase in the
consumption of energy resources, China and India - about 50 percent. According to
a forecast by the International Energy Agency, the share of China in world energy
demand in 2020 could reach 17-18% vs. present 12-13%.
Many of the global centers of expertise hope that it is the developing
countries that will provide higher rate of decline in energy intensity of their
economies - at the expense of considerable potential introduction of energy and
resource saving technologies. With this in mind, it is assumed that the energy
intensity of the world economy in 2030 could be reduced by 60%. Specific energy
consumption will be reduced from 306 kg of oil equivalent per U.S. $ 1,000 of the
world GDP in 2005 to 130 kg - in 2030.
These calculations are problematic in many ways as primarily they do not
take into account the root causes, ion virtue of which developing countries have the
worst indicators of resource consumption and production technology than the
advanced countries. These reasons are laid in the historical context of the
development of the countries concerned. In order to create a modern production,
embodying resource and energy saving technology, all advanced countries have
passed long and difficult recovery path of its productive forces, the development of
techniques and technologies, including both qualitative and quantitative changes.
For many years they relied on the action to improve the level of mechanization and
power availability per worker.
The extent to which residents of developed countries benefit by equipping
their work and life with technical resources against the less developed countries of
the world, is clearly given by the indicators such as power consumption per capita.
If the world as a whole (as of 2004), the power consumption per capita was 2701
kWh, while the OECD countries - 8795 kWh, and the average for developing
countries - only 1221 kWh. This indicator was 628 kWh per person in the countries
of South Asia, 478 in Africa in south of the Sahara, and only 119 kWh in the least
developed countries. While nearly 1.6 billion people in the world still lack access
to electricity. With 100-percent level of electrification of life in OECD countries,
this level is only 68% in developing countries and 26% in Africa in south of the
These differences are substantial among the countries that are not
particularly diametric in civilization (as is typical of the overall picture above), for
example, between Russia and the countries of the developed West (Figure 1).
OECD– Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (author’s note.)
Figure 1. Electricity consumption per capita (kWh).
The consumption of electricity per capita in Russia in 2004 amounted to
6425 kWh, which is 2.5 times lower than in the U.S. The optimal value of this
indicator is strongly influenced by climatic conditions. Among the developed
countries, the most similar to Russia in severity of climatic conditions can be
regarded Canada and Norway. And it is in these countries where the world's largest
per capita consumption figures: 18408 and 26657 kWh, respectively. In general,
the highly developed countries (within the OECD) energy consumption per person
is about 9000 kWh. This level seems to be a kind of benchmark to illustrate the
scale of the problems associated with achievement of technological conditions in
developing countries that are comparable to the developed countries.
We cannot hide from the fact that the advanced countries throughout the
history of their economic progress invariably focused on the growth of energy
supply and on very high energy consumption per capita, which was contributed by
their political and economic dominance in the world. These countries have long
enjoyed the situation formed by them of unequal exchange with the colonial and
dependent countries where raw materials in the latter were bought at low prices,
and the reverse flow of processing items - at inflated prices. It is the fact that
predetermined the high level of technology and, therefore, the standard of living of
the population in Western countries.
The consumption of electricity per capita in U.S. in 2004 was 14,240 kWh in
Japan - 8459, while in China – 1684, India - 618, Indonesia - 476, and, for
example, in Nigeria - 157 and Sudan - 118 kWh.
In this context, we can’t fail to draw attention to some of the attempts to use
the concept of sustainable development in not very plausible purposes. Thus,
moving the focus on GDP energy (and resource) intensity as an absolute criteria,
conceptualists paid by Western countries are trying to shift the problem from the
field of causes to the field of consequences. Recommendations for developing
countries outwardly simple and logical: purchase, they say, technologies and
equipment already available in developed countries, for which willingness to lend
is offered. The fact that these energy and resource saving technologies were
developed by Western countries in the hothouse environment of unequal exchange
with the rest of the world is found to be in the shade. Also, high cost of these
technologies to customers, that is too heavy for undeveloped countries, looks as a
“natural condition”. And behind it all there is the impressive benefits for the
current leaders of the world: 1) the placement of large-scale orders for their
companies and 2) the appearance of additional funds for governance of global
processes. There is the line of “usurping the right to implement a global unique
policy of protecting the environment, pointed out by some reputable experts” [9].
We emphasize that, despite the large investments in environmentally
oriented technology, that is highly developed countries which are the main sources
of polluting the environment of the various emissions, as clearly shown in table 1.
Table 1. Emissions of the most common air pollutants* (thousands of tons)
Sulphur Nitrogen
monoxide dioxide
United Kingdom
In seven developed
The four countries
of former USSR
* Data for countries in various years between 2005-2009.
The most economically developed country in the world the U.S. is the
biggest polluter of the Earth's atmosphere, exceeding the scale of emissions such
highly developed countries of Europe, such as Germany, about 20 times. And
despite the poor state of conservation measures in Russia and other former Soviet
countries, the seven most developed countries of America and Europe due to CO2
emissions pollute the atmosphere almost 16 times more than Russia, Belarus,
Kazakhstan and Ukraine together.
About scenarios for the future
In essence, the global community postulates and enforces by various means
three integrated approaches to sustainable development in the future. Of course,
they cannot be regarded as sufficiently developed and structured, but they exist. In
a simplified form their substance can be characterized by the following
The first approach. Let go as is, but would not be much worse than it is now.
The main hope - on the automatism of the laws of scientific and technological
progress and market mechanisms, as well as on the reasonableness of the political
leaders of the countries who are required and will develop and implement the
development programs that stop crises and ensure steady progress.
The second approach. The world by its very nature is built on competition
and therefore unfair. The development will be sustainable only if the weak will be
retiring from competitive racing, making way and resources for strong. So do not
prevent the natural decline in population, including in the political and
geographical dimension, when unsuccessful countries leave the world stage, giving
the space for “progress”. Balance between economic and environmental problems
in harsh environments of closing to the threshold values of pressure on the
environment can only be achieved on the basis of reducing the number of “eaters”
in the world. So do not exclude the use as a global “aidmen” of escalating conflicts
over natural resources to local and even world wars. And although no one risks
stating openly the concept of sustainable development in this bare and simplified
form for fear of being accused of antihumanism, it nevertheless exists and even to
some extent is being realized. This is evidenced, in particular, by quite level
attitude to the coverage in the literature of the role of the Second World War as a
logical step that contributed to the completion and overcoming a succession of
contradictions in the economy of the Western world, caused by the Great
Depression of the 1930s. And it is this Great Depression that today is compared
with many turn of events of the current global crisis.
The third approach. Humanity will inevitably have to come to other
standards of consumption of primary resources and end benefits than existing now,
and that should be encouraged in every way today. Therefore it is necessary to
behave approvingly to the tendency of alignment of economic and social
conditions of life between developing and developed countries, in every possible
way to promote a more rapid pace of economic growth in the relatively
undeveloped countries, to provide preferential transfer to these countries of high
technology. The global crisis means the exhaustion of the concept of
“methodological individualism”, based on which all economic relations were built
within the framework of capitalism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; it
leads to the need for a new institutionalization of economic interactions involving
interested cooperation of business units with a predominance of common longterm interests as the main driver for developing. Voluntary reduction of goods
consumption standards to the level of science-based values, safe in terms of
pressure on the environment, which especially should refer to the peoples living in
areas of developed countries.
Of course, this last scenario is unlikely to find a sufficient mass of
supporters in the near future in the developed countries, ready to replace the usual
motivation of its life built on the principle of competition for the maximization of
profits, for something else, mixed (at least partially) on altruism. However, there is
displaying tendency of gradual expansion of the circle of thinkers in the world,
who consider this scenario inevitable.
If you go to the problems of Russia, so, on the whole, we have state
environmental policy in line with global trends. Level of spending on
environmental protection in Russia in specific respect is comparable with other
countries. For example, in 2009 it accounted for 0.9% of GDP. For comparison,
according to the IMF, such spending in Finland was at 1.1%, France - 0.9%
Canada - 0.7%, Germany - 0.5%, Great Britain - 1.0%, Spain - 0.9%. Russia in
recent years adopted and implemented several federal target programs (FTP),
directly or indirectly solving environmental issues of the economy, such as FTP
“Clean Water” for 2011 - 2017.
The farther it goes, the more environmental problems must be solved in our
country in the context of more general challenges for further social and economic
development burdened by the global crisis. Honorable way out of this crisis for
Russia will inevitably be associated with the fundamental choice of ways of
converting industrial and technological base, which, being originally largely
technologically lagging behind, over a period of speculative and not very thoughtout market reforms after 1991, was subjected to the degradation and destruction.
Russia's policy of sustainable development should include as an organic
component the active modernization of key sectors of the economy. Favoring this
circumstance is that, in general, the natural conditions in the territory of Russia
(despite the numerous instances of environmental irresponsibility) is far less
disturbed by the industrial and consuming intrusion of human than in most other
countries and regions of the world. According to expert estimates, the level of
preservation of natural ecosystems to the turn of the millenniums, in Russia was
approximately 65%, against 20% in China, 7% in Indonesia, 5% in the U.S., 4% in
Europe (excluding Russia), 1% in India. And this fact is attracting the global play
entities in world economic relations to Russia as to the untapped by them natural
resource for their habitual patterns of unequal exchange.
Our country must oppose to such approaches its own active and balanced
strategy for sustainable development, having a strong innovative focus that spreads
both on the modernization of industry and the challenges of social sphere and
governance. In this case, Russia could become one of the platforms for research,
development, and assimilation of a certain set of fundamentally new technologies
and forms of organization of production and way of life, providing a significant
reduction in the load on the resource potential of nature, and on the environment,
meeting the interests of all mankind.
1. I. Wallerstein, Dynamics of Global Crisis: thirty years later / / Expert, 2009, #
2. V.I. Vernadsky. Scientific thought as a planetary phenomenon / Ed. A.L.
Yanshin. Moscow: Nauka, 1991
3. A.A. Golub, B.B. Strukov. The economy of nature use. Moscow: Aspect Press,
4. World Development Report 2003. Sustainable development in a changing
world. Transforming institutions, growth and quality of life. / Trans. from
English. - Moscow: Publishing House “Whole World”, 2003.
5. The Human Development Report 2007/2008. Fighting climate change: Human
solidarity in a divided world / Trans. from English. - Moscow: Publishing
House “Whole World”, 2007.
6. V.I. Kushlin. Policies of sustainable development and crisis management / / The
Economist, 2012, # 8.
7. Our common future. Moscow: Progress, 1989.
8. Principles of long-term strategy for global sustainable development based on
partnership between civilizations. / Ed. Professor Y.V.Yakovets. - M. MISK,
9. V. Yakunin. Prices instead of values. / Expert, 2012, # 27
10.Global Environment Outlook 4 (GEO-4): Environment for Development.
UNEP. 2007
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