Current Policy Projections
Current policies overview
Contrary to the required peak and decline of emissions needed to achieve the Paris Agreement goal, emissions in the Russian Federation are expected to either flatline or continue growing until at least 2030.
However, Russia’s emissions targets, which use 1990 as a reference, allow national emissions to continue an upward trend without missing its international commitments. According to our latest estimates, 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.
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.
Following his re-election for a fourth term, in May 2018 President Putin pushed for the country achieving a technological, environmental and economic breakthrough. The Environment Ministry then drafted the “Ecology” (Экология) programme focusing on air pollution reduction, reforestation, and improving waste management (Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, 2018). None of the ten directions in the Ecology programme relate directly to GHG emissions reductions, although the “clean air”, “waste management” and “preservation of forest” could have important synergies with climate change mitigation. The budget that had been initially planned for the Plan was also cut by 17%.
There has been little progress in climate action implementation in the Russian Federation. Yet, in late 2018, the Ministry of Economic Development proposed new draft legislation “On state regulation of emissions and the absorption of greenhouse gases” with a view to making Russian companies more competitive on emissions reductions and inspiring innovation in low-carbon industries (Ministry of Economic Development, 2019).
The legislation introduced in December 2018 was initially intended to establish a cap-and-trade system for major carbon emitters by 2025 and require companies to report their emissions. It would have allowed the government to introduce targets for GHG emissions and charge companies for excess emissions, which would feed into the Emissions Reduction Support Fund. However, due to fierce resistance from the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, all of these measures except for the requirement of companies to report their emissions have been removed (Moscow Times, 2019b).
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 (CNBC, 2017). 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 (Kokorin & Korppoo, 2017).
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 (Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation, 2017). 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).
The focus on long-term risks has underpinned the delay in the adoption of ambitious climate targets and policies, and contrary to what is needed to achieve the agreement’s objective, Russia presented a national strategy that delayed ratification until October 2019 (Government of the Russian Federation, 2016).
The strategy, summarised in Order No2344, Nov 2016, includes a number of planned studies of how ratification of the Paris Agreement would affect the national economy, which would have to be ready before the final decision regarding the ratification is taken. The timeline outlined in the decree would result in a draft presidential decree for approving the 2030 emissions targets and a draft of a new Federal Law on Carbon Regulation being prepared as late as in 2019. The timeline does not specify a date for the final version or adoption of the documents, which makes the date of the ratification highly uncertain.
The Russian Action Plan also mandates the drafting of a “low-carbon strategy until 2050” by the end of 2019, however, it is now clear that it will not meet this deadline. National regulation requires it to be based on a social and economic development projection and strategy for the same period—and currently these documents are being developed only for the period until 2035 (Kokorin & Korppoo, 2017). In addition, the mandate refers only to drafts, which may contain only principles and approaches, without concrete mitigation measures and GHG targets, which provides a weak basis for progress (Ibid).
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. While it is more than likely that Russia will achieve its NDC target, this will not require a decrease in GHG emissions from current levels, nor a low-carbon economic development strategy. As shown by the “with additional measures” in Russia’s latest national communication, additional mitigation measures are still needed if emissions were to peak and start declining post-2030 as required by the Paris Agreement.
A first step in the right direction would be to present a 2030 target which actually foresees emissions reductions beyond the current policy scenario. This would not only be more credible from an international perspective (Korppoo & Kokorin, 2015), but would also facilitate aligning national policy developments with the long-term emission reductions needed to avoid dangerous levels of climate change.
Our current policy projections include the main pieces of Russia’s climate-related legislation, namely the 2009 Climate Doctrine, the Energy Strategy for 2030, the Decree on Measures to Stimulate the Reduction of Air Pollution from Associated Gas Flaring Products, the 2013 Presidential Decree on reduction of GHG emissions, and the 2014 Decree on the Action Plan for 2020, which have a clear focus on energy production and demand. These documents define the main national mitigation targets, which include a 2.5% share of renewables in the power sector for 2020 (excluding large hydro), and a target utilisation rate of 95% for associated petroleum gas by 2012.
Since this target has not been met, additional incentives for compliance were added since 2012, the most recent being a payment system (with a multiplying factor) for exceeding the Associated Petroleum Gas flaring limit that came into force in 2015 (Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation, 2015). However, multiple exemptions to the limit, including new oilfields, fields with low emissions, and fields under maintenance significantly limit the effectiveness of the flaring limit, with recent data showing a vast underachievement of the limit since 2012 and major delays in implementation (Korppoo & Kokorin, 2015).
Russia’s energy s sector accounted for 78.8% of all emissions without LULUCF in 2017 (the last year for which data is available). This is expected to fall to between 71% and 65% by 2030 as the share of renewable energy gradually increases and coal consumption begins to be displaced by natural gas (IEA, 2019).
Natural gas made up 53% of Russia’s total primary energy demand (TPED) in 2017, and this is projected to increase slightly to 55% by 2030 under current policies, mostly at the expense of coal. This high share of gas is problematic, as gas does not have a place in 1.5C° compatible scenarios and still produces significant GHG emissions in both its production and consumption (Masson-Delmotte et al., 2018).
Enel Russia, a large Italian-owned energy retailer in Russia, recently sold off its largest coal power station in a sign that environmental concerns of investors may be affecting corporate behaviour in Russia (Moscow Times, 2019a). Enel Russia is a leading investor in renewable energy and has been attempting to divest itself of coal-fired power assets in order to make its portfolio of power plants greener.
Coal share in energy supply in Primary Energy
In contrast, Russian state development bank VEB said in November 2019 that it would provide financing of 34 billion roubles (USD32 million) together with VTB Bank for the construction of a new coal port in the east of Russia (Reuters, 2019). The terminal’s initial capacity is expected to be 12 million tonnes of coal per year, eventually doubling to 24 million tonnes per year. Operations are scheduled to commence at the port in 2020.
Examples of measures included in our projections, as estimated by the latest World Energy Outlook, are the Voluntary Labelling Programme for Electrical Products and the Implementation of the Federal Law on Energy Conservation and Energy Efficiency.
Russia’s agricultural sector in 2017 only amounted to 5.9% of total emissions without LULUCF. In the agriculture and forestry sectors, Russia’s approach is primarily based on adaptation instead of mitigation. The government has implemented a series of measures to address negative effects of extreme weather events and disasters, including drought and fires, and is currently working on expanding the scope of its agricultural climate policies to include the use of new technologies, including new forms of nitrogen fertilisers (Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, 2017).
In the forestry sector, Russia’s negative emissions in 2017 equalled 27% of the country’s total emissions excluding LULUCF. The Federal Forestry Agency developed the State Program of forestry development for 2020 (Rosleskhoz, 2013), which includes optimisation practices for afforestation and an improved methodology for risk calculation to minimise the effects of forest and peat fires.
Despite these policies, according to the most recent projections, included in the Third Biennial Report, instead of increasing, the current Forestry net sink will drop to zero over the next 40 years mostly due to the reduction in the absorbing capacity of aging forests (Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, 2017). This decline can be halted only by radical changes in forestry practices and by protecting significant amounts of primary forests from commercial clear-cutting (Kokorin & Korppoo, 2017).
In the draft of the national project “Ecology” (Экология) 115 billion roubles (1.75 billion USD) has been allocated for the “Preservation of Forests”, of which 93 billion RUB (1.4 billion USD) are expected to come from private funds and the main focus of the policy is on the restoration of deforested land (Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, 2018). The impact of these plans on emissions in unclear and has not been included in our current policy projections.
The waste sector only contributed 4.2% to Russia’s total emissions excluding LULUCF in 2017 (the last year for which data is available). Measures to curb emissions in the waste sector included in our projections are in line with the integrated management strategies for municipal solid waste, adopted through strategic legal documents between 2014 and 2017 (Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, 2017).
In the draft of the national project “Ecology” (Экология) 404 billion RUB (6.1 billion USD) have been allocated for "waste management", of which 284 billion RUB (4.3 billion USD) will be designated for the creation of an integrated waste management system. Other areas include the reclamation of 266 landfills and the creation of infrastructure for hazardous waste management. From this budget, around 200 billion RUB (3 billion USD) are expected to come from private sources (Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, 2018). The impact of these plans on emissions in unclear and has not been included in our current policy projections.