Russian Emissions And Climate Change Action and Vladimir Putin Involvement At Cop26

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By Chris Devonshire-Ellis 

Russian forestry management and carbon sinking technologies combine with a new national climate change plan and emissions targets

Russia has announced new, long-term plans for dealing with climate change,  while President Vladimir Putin is set to address part of the Cop26 program with a prepared speech to the conference on forestry and land use management. Despite criticisms of his not attending in person, Putin has not travelled overseas since the outbreak of Covid-19 over eighteen months ago. Putin’s address instead to the forestry and land management section makes sense as forest cover is a large part of climate preservation. According to the United Nations, about 49.4% or some 809,090,000 ha of Russia is forested. Of this 31.7% (256,482,000 ha) is classified as primary forest, the most biodiverse and carbon-dense form of forest. Russia’s experience in maintaining and managing this is of great scientific and global importance. Meanwhile, a significant Russian scientific delegation is attending Cop26.

Russia faces serious issues as a result of climate change, including permafrost melting, more frequent wildfires, flooding and heatwaves. Changes would increase inland flash floods, more frequent coastal flooding and increased erosion, a reduced snow cover and glacial melting, which may ultimately lead to species losses and changes in ecosystem functioning. Climate changes in Russia have also been proven to show negative effects on the country’s economy. The agricultural production of the country suffers economic losses due to its dependency on weather and climate factors. The overall yield of grain crops in Russia is expected to decrease by 17% by 2050, thereby affecting prices of agricultural products on the global market. By 2030, prices of grain crops are estimated to rise by 29% for wheat, 33% for rice and 47% for maize.

Greenhouse gas emissions by Russia are over 3% of the annual world total and derive mostly from fossil fuels. In total, Russia emits about 1.71 GT of Greenhouse gases, annually, compared to 5.41 GT by the United States.

The Russian government meanwhile approved a long-term government climate strategy on Monday targeting carbon neutrality by 2060. A 2050 deadline to halt net carbon emissions is widely cited as necessary to prevent the most extreme global warming; Russia and China have both committed to a 2060 target instead. Both face issues with outdated energy technology and are caught in a cycle of industrial development that requires still increasing energy usage. The Russian commitment envisages Russia reducing its net greenhouse gas emissions to 80% of 1990 levels and 60% of 2019 levels by 2050 with neutrality to be achieved a decade later. This can be compared with the United States’ commitments to climate change, which US President Biden stated yesterday would be to reduce carbon emissions by 50%-52% below 2005 levels by 2030.

Russia agreed on the aims and goals of the Paris Agreement in 2016, and while every country has different ways to achieve the established goals depending on resources, the Russian approach was identified within the National Development Councils climate change plan:

  • Use the maximum possible absorption capacity of forest cover when counting the greenhouse gas emissions reduction to show the importance of greenhouse gas sinks and the need to protect and improvement of them.
  • Proactive work to aim reducing the risk of climate change (for example construction of dams against floods).
  • Emergency adaptation to minimize the damage in case of a climate change emergency
  • Increasing energy efficiency in all sectors of the economy and developing the use of non-fuel and renewable energy sources.
  • Russian approved an action plan to improve the energy efficiency of the Russian economy in 2019, with this now in force.
  • Inventory of greenhouse gas emissions by monitoring, reporting and verification system
  • Russia will assist developing countries in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. This is done by increasing the peaceful use of nuclear energy in developing countries.

Some of these goals have been interfered with by US sanctions on Russia, including the supply of certain technologies and issues concerning nuclear energy technologies.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin stated that Russia will start implementing green projects next year, including testing carbon capture technologies, a process still at a very early stage of development.

Western media have been quick to criticize both Russia and China at Cop26, primarily because neither leader attended. However, Xi Jinping gave a recorded speech yesterday to delegates, while the countries National Reform & Development Commission released detailed plans on tackling climate change and emissions in China. Russian President Putin meanwhile is to make a recorded speech to a specific conference at Cop26 in an area where Russia has great experience. While the media hype is negative, Russian, and Chinese scientists and other experts have a significant presence at Cop26. It is to be hoped that behind the scenes collaborations can lead to cooperation and action, despite the finger pointing and accusatory tones of who is responsible.

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Russia Briefing is written by Dezan Shira & Associates. The firm has 28 offices throughout Eurasia, including China, Russia, India, and the ASEAN nations, assisting foreign investors into the Eurasian region. Please contact Maria Kotova at russia@dezshira.com for Russian investment advisory or assistance with market intelligence, legal, tax and compliance issues throughout Asia.

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