While Russia formally ratified the Paris agreement in October 2019, its decision to ratify was more symbolic than substantive, as it did not come with any improvement to its very weak emissions reduction target, nor with an announcement of any new climate policies.
It is more than likely that Russia will achieve its Paris Agreement target, a target so weak it would not require a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions from current levels—nor would it require the Government to adopt a low-carbon economic development strategy. As a result, we have given Russia a rating of “Critically Insufficient.”
In the wake of Russia’s ratification of the Paris Agreement, it has been reported that the much-anticipated climate legislation introduced to parliament in December 2018 that would have imposed emissions quotas and penalised big polluters has been gutted. The influential Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs effectively lobbied for the legislation to be reduced to a five-year emissions audit.
Despite its high vulnerability to the impacts of climate change (confirmed by a 2017 report from the Environment Ministry), Russia has made little progress in climate action implementation—indeed, the government is delaying the adoption of ambitious climate targets and policies.
A large year-on-year change in Russia’s emissions data provided to the UN in 2019 has seen Russia’s reported historical emissions drop considerably between 1990 and 2016, the latest year of reported emissions prior to 2019. Russia’s latest inventory reports that total GHG emissions in 2016 were more than 500 MtCO2e lower than reported in the previous inventory in 2018, approximately a 21% reduction in total emissions (excluding LULUCF). The primary reason for this downward revision is a roughly 90% reduction in the CO2 and methane emission factors for oil exploration and production and venting related to oil production. Russia previously used the default emission factors from the 2006 IPCC guidelines for developing countries, but after this was queried by the UNFCCC Expert Review Team, switched in 2019 to the default for developed countries.
This large downward revision in historical emissions comes as the latest emissions data shows a considerable year-on-year spike in GHG emissions in 2017 (+58 MtCO2e) after four consecutive years of relative stability.
Russia is likely to meet its NDC, because it is so weak.
According to our latest estimates, Russia’s currently implemented policies will lead to emissions of between 2.1 and 2.2 GtCO2e in 2020 and roughly the same in 2030 (excluding LULUCF), which is 0-2% above 2017 emission levels. This represents a decrease in emissions from 1990 levels of 32-33% in 2020 and 31-33% in 2030, all below the NDC targets, which allow emissions to grow 16–23% above 2017 levels by 2030.
With this approach, the Russian economy is at risk of losing global competitiveness in the medium to long term in a market that is moving fast towards the development of low-carbon technologies.
Our current policy projection pathway for Russia’s emissions has been revised down considerably since the last update. This is due to updated data for the growth rates of non-CO2 emissions and CO2 emissions excluding fuel combustion and LULUCF, as well as the inclusion of Russia’s 4.5% renewable energy target by 2024.
A first step towards contributing to the Paris Agreement’s goals would be for Russia to present a 2030 target setting out actual emissions reductions beyond the current policy scenario. This would not only be more credible from an international perspective, but would also help to align national policy developments with the long-term emissions reductions needed to avoid dangerous levels of climate change, which represent high risks to the national economy.
Since 2017, President Vladimir Putin seemed to have taken a U-turn in his public position regarding climate change and the Paris Agreement, returning to a sceptical attitude. Russia’s leadership has stated that it expects long-term risks for the national economy from climate change as well as from the global economic trends resulting from the implementation of the Paris Agreement. This neglects the significant short and medium-term risks that a low-carbon global pathway entails for an economy largely based on the export of fossil fuels and mineral resources.
These statements have been challenged by the findings of a 900-page report “On the status and protection Environment Russian Federation” of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology, which breaks down the past and future consequences of climate change for the country. It concludes that Russia is already being hit by the natural disasters and other impacts of climate change, and projects this trend to increase in the future (e.g. heatwaves, widespread forest fires, epidemics, drought, mass flooding and food shortages).
In 2017 (the last year for which data is available) Russia’s energy sector accounted for 78.8% of all emissions without LULUCF. While renewable energy investments in Russia have increased in recent years, there was no registered increase in renewable energy capacity over 2017 and 2018. However, between 2016 and 2017, Russia adopted three decrees and orders in the field of energy efficiency and promotion of renewable energy, including a plan of measures to further stimulate the development of generation facilities based on renewable energy sources with installed capacity up to 15 kW.
Installed renewable power generation capacity sat at approximately 54 GW by the end of 2018, equivalent to 20% of the country’s total power generation capacity, with hydropower representing the majority by far of the installed capacity (52 GW).
Under current policy projections, there is a slight upward trend in the share of renewable sources in primary energy demand, from around 3.3% in 2017 to 4.5% by 2030. Russia has a 2.5% Renewable Energy Target for 2020 and a 4.5% target for 2024 (excluding large hydro), which we estimate would increase the share of RE sources slightly to 4.5% of primary energy demand by 2030.
This upward trend and the increasing number of regulations promoting renewable energy deployment has been attributed to the benefits of renewable energy sources in Russia which include contributing to economic growth, diversifying the energy mix, and reducing energy supply costs in remote areas of the country.