Vladimir Putin changes his mind and echoes Donald Trump to say humans are not to blame for climate change

Chloe Farand
Russian President Vladimir Putin visits Alexandra Land in remote Arctic islands of Franz Josef Land: EPA

Vladimir Putin has said humans are not to blame for climate change - and that the melting of the ice in the Arctic could be used for Russia's “economic ends”.

One day after visiting the Franz Josef Land archipelago in the Arctic, the Russian President claimed icebergs had been melting for decades and that global warming was not mankind’s fault.

The apparent reversal in Mr Putin's attitude to climate change came shortly after White House spokesman Sean Spicer announced that Donald Trump would decide by May whether the US will remain in the Paris Agreement.

Speaking at an Arctic forum in the northern Russian city of Arkhangelsk, Mr Putin said: “The warming had already started by the 1930s.

"That's when there were no such anthropological factors, such emissions, and the warming had already started.

"The issue is not stopping it... because that's impossible since it could be tied to some global cycles on Earth or even of planetary significance. The issue is to somehow adapt to it."

Mr Putin reportedly quoted an Austrian explorer, who had “a photographic memory” and visited the archipelago in the 1930s.

Twenty years later the explorer was shown photographs from another expedition there and concluded that "there were fewer icebergs there", Mr Putin reportedly said.

While Finnish President Sauli Niinisto told the forum climate change was a "serious threat" to the Arctic, Mr Putin said it could bring "more favourable conditions for using this region for economic ends".

Earlier in the day, Mr Putin was shown a video of an ice-breaking tanker docking for the first time at Russia's Arctic port of Sabetta to test a new route for ships carrying oil and liquefied gas, according to CBS News.

Energy firms are eager for the route to open in order to extract resources such as oil and gas.

Mr Putin’s comments contrast with a speech he gave at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in November 2015, when he said “climate change has become one of the most serious challenges facing humanity”.

“Global warming is causing more and more hurricanes, floods, drought, other abnormal phenomena and is also causing tangible economic damage, destroying, established human habitat," he said at the time.

“The quality of life of all people on the planet depends on solving the climate problem.

“Russia’s efforts have slowed global warming by almost a year. We were able to nearly double our country’s GDP over the same period."

Previously, Mr Putin has said global warming was good for exposing natural resources and that warming by "two or three degrees" could mean Russians would no longer need fur coats.

During his visit to the Arctic, the Russian President also wished good luck to the new chief of the US Environmental Protection Agency, Scot Pruitt, whose appointment was highly controversial given his track record of denying climate science.

Last year, a report from the Environment Ministry found that Russia is warming twice as fast as the average for the rest of the world and warned about the rise of floods and wildfires across the country.

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