"Working off the commitment"?

Recently, Russian climate policy has noticeably revived. Only this is caused not by an awareness of the depth of the problems, but by the upcoming changes in international carbon regulation. Russia needs to seriously reconsider its readiness to the new environmental agenda - experts and civil society representatives believe.

Deputy Prime Ministers Victoria Abramchenko and Alexander Novak held a meeting on the coordination of work on the transition to a low-carbon economy. Speaking to the participants of the event, Victoria Abramchenko proposed to “protect national interests in the development of all mechanisms of adaptation to create a Russian project office with different competencies, which will deal with the climate, working out the obligations and risks associated with the export of our products.”

The Russian government supported the bill on limiting greenhouse gas emissions prepared by the Ministry of Economic Development. As stated on the website of the Government, “the bill creates a fundamentally new mechanism of economic regulation.” The document envisages the gradual introduction of a model for regulating greenhouse gas emissions, which includes two blocks. One of them introduces mandatory carbon reporting for the largest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions (more than 150 thousand tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in the first phase until 2024). The rest of the organizations can still submit data on a voluntary basis.

The second block of the document is designed to form a legal framework for the circulation of carbon units. If the bill is passed, any organization will be able to implement a climate project. The modernization of enterprises, increasing energy and resource efficiency, and forest-climatic projects that involve increasing the absorption of greenhouse gases in natural ecosystems (for example, improving the efficiency of forest management, restoration of forests, and biodiversity on burnt areas) can be considered. These are voluntary projects - there will be no taxes or mandatory payments.


“Now all businesses whose work is accompanied by significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions will report on this, such a requirement will become mandatory for each of them. At the same time, the new regulation will enable businesses to carry out their climate projects, and their implementation will attract green investments,” commented the changes in climate policy the Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation Mikhail Mishustin.


It was decided to start carbon trading in Russia from the regional level. Last January, the RF government a roadmap for the creation of a mechanism to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to climate neutrality for Sakhalin, “as a result of which it is planned to create for the first time in Russia a system of carbon trading units and to ensure that the region will achieve carbon neutrality by 2025.

Deputy Energy Minister Pavel Sorokin said that work is underway to issue green certificates for clean energy producers, which the Ministry of Energy expects to introduce as early as this year. The official said that producers will be able to use such certificates to “show the purity of their products,” and the Ministry of Energy believes it possible to create a system of trading quotas for greenhouse CO2 emissions in Russia, similar to the European: “We are now considering a pilot project to create a platform for registration and exchange of quotas and emissions trading, respectively, on Sakhalin, this is the first experiment, and now we are working through this issue.


“We need to have a clear understanding of each region, each industry,” underlined Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak at the low-carbon meeting. “Low-carbon fuel and energy balance are our obvious, but a still unused advantage. For example, the share of environmentally friendly nuclear power plants and hydroelectric power plants is up to 40% of Russian power generation. Considering that exported goods consume only 20% of all electricity produced, we can at least provide proof of the purity of products sold for export.”


Representatives of civil society consider the revival of the climate agenda a positive signal. But, in their opinion, Russia needs a truly “green” strategy, providing for an early departure from the use of coal, reducing dependence on all types of fossil fuels, and should not include an increase in the share of nuclear power plants and large dam hydroelectric power plants in the energy balance of the country. The Russian Social and Ecological Union (RSoES) together with Greenpeace Russia have launched a special platform  to collect proposals for a “green” way out of the crisis.


“In recent months, the importance of and interest in the climate agenda in Russia has grown significantly, including from the Russian government...” said Ruslan Edelgeriev, presidential adviser on climate change, in an interview with RIA Novosti. “But I have to admit that the driver of these changes is external factors, first of all, the EU cross-border carbon regulation.”

Ruslan Edelgeriev suggested that the world trends show the formation of a “climate club” which Russia will not have access to under the current policy. According to the presidential advisor, the Paris climate agreement has survived and strengthened despite the opinion of skeptics, which means that Russia should seriously reconsider its readiness to live with the new environmental agenda.