This post was submitted by Russia Country Manager Michael Oshchepkov
According to the international scientific and political consensus, the main cause of climate change on the planet is the increase in the average annual temperature of the atmosphere. The main causes are primarily carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), which accounted for 63.1% and 32.4% of Russia’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2016.
The Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation expects the government to adopt a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions soon. The latest official data on the volume of greenhouse gas emissions by Russia into the atmosphere indicates that in 2017 Russia produced 1,577.8 million tons of CO2. This data is calculated by an analytical center under the Government of the Russian Federation.
However, more up-to-date information on CO2 emissions is available from an international platform (Figure 1).
Figure 1 Russia’s level of million tonnes of carbon dioxide, 2009 – 2019
Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2020
For example, according to British Petroleum, at the end of 2019, Russia released 1,532.6 million tons of CO2, which is 49% of the volume of carbon dioxide emissions in 1990. Between 2009 and 2019, the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in Russia did not exceed 50% of the 1990’s level. (Figure 1).
Russia Has Set an Ambitious Goal for Reducing Emissions by 2030
After the adoption of the Paris Agreement by a decree from President Vladimir Putin, Russia officially set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the level of “70-75% of 1990 emissions by 2030. The absorption capacity of forests is considered as much as possible to reach that goal.” Russia is constantly being criticized by international and local NGO’s for using absorption to calculate its emission reduction, instead of calculation reduction on industrial emissions. The problem is that the absorptive capacity of forests is not considered either in the provisions of the Paris Agreement, or at the level of the recommended methodology for accounting for greenhouse gas emissions used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
In Russia, many businesses don’t believe in climate change and don’t just think of it as a real threat to the environment. In addition, they believe that carbon regulation and creation of greenhouse gas emissions trading policies are the steps taken by Western countries to gain a competitive advantage over other developing economies through the “capitalization of carbon emissions trading.”
As part of the ongoing measures, the same decree instructed the government to develop and approve a Strategy for the socio-economic development of Russia until 2050 with a low level of such emissions. That strategy is currently being developed.
The Details of Russia’s Plan to Implement its Commitment to Achieving its 2030 and 2050 Goals
The strategy of socio-economic development of Russia until 2050, developed by the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation, assumes four scenarios – basic, intensive, inertial and the scenario “without state support measures”. The basic scenario assumes a reduction in the carbon intensity of GDP by 9% by 2030 and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by a third by 2030 (from 1990 levels).
In the basic scenario, Russia will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 36% by 2050 (from 1990 levels), to 2 billion tons of CO2 equivalent. At the same time, the accumulated reduction in emissions will amount to 80-81 billion tons.
Figure 2 Russia’s CO2 reduction basic scenario, 1990 – 2050
Source: Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation
The basic scenario includes forecasts of a large-scale increase in energy efficiency, full balance of forest reproduction, expansion of the area of their protection and a significant reduction in continuous logging. To achieve this, the Ministry of Economic Development proposes the following measures:
- Massively introduce energy-saving technologies in the energy sector and other industries
- Increase the volume of waste processing, reclaim the largest landfills, and dispose of methane
- Encourage the production and use of products with a high energy efficiency class
- Strengthen the protection of forests from fires and pests, reduce continuous logging
However, from 2017 to 2030, greenhouse gas emissions will increase slightly — from 1578 to 2077 million tons of CO-2 equivalent, and only after 2030 will begin to decline to the level of 1993 million tons by 2050 (Figure 2).
Under the intensive scenario, Russia will reduce emissions by 36% by 2030, and by 2050 it will reduce them by 48%, to 1.6 billion tons of CO2 equivalent (Figure 3).
The intensive scenario involves an increase in the share of renewable energy sources, as well as the development of technologies for capturing, storing, and processing CO2 – along with the rejection of continuous logging (Figure 3). This scenario will make it possible to achieve carbon neutrality in the second half of the twenty-first century, closer to its completion.
Figure 3 Russia’s CO2 reduction intensive scenario, 1990 – 2050
Source: Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation
According to the intensive scenario, the following measures will be implemented:
- Price regulation of greenhouse gas emissions (taxes and fees)
- Creation of a national system for labeling carbon-intensive products and disclosure of information about the source of electricity to consumers
- Creating incentives for equipping buildings with solar collectors, photo panels, etc.
- Expansion of producers’ responsibility, implementing recycling fees, re-qualification of waste into secondary resources
- Prohibition of continuous logging
So far, the Government of the Russian Federation proposes to take a basic scenario with an emphasis on improving the energy efficiency of the economy and preserving forests (Figure 2). However, if the geopolitical environment puts pressure on Russia, the country will have to follow an intensive scenario of reducing greenhouse gas emissions (Figure 3).
The Ministry of Economic Development does not specify how much it will cost to implement the strategy until 2050 but measures indirectly related to reducing emissions in 2019-2020 are estimated at 50-58 billion US dollars.
The main goal of the strategy for 2030 is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 33% comparing to the 1990 level by 2030. This strategy will soon be legally formulated and officially presented to the Paris Agreement by Russia.
Recall that the previous goal for 2030, which the Russian Federation called in 2015, was minus 25% of the level of 1990. Now the Russian Federation is at the level of about minus 50% of the level of 1990 (also including the absorption of CO2 by forests).
Unfortunately, Russia’s goals towards carbon neutrality do not look ambitious. However, the emergence of a detailed scenario involving energy efficiency, carbon regulation and forest protection measures is already good news for Russia, where the climate agenda has recently become an important part of economic policy.
On April 21, 2021, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the Federal Assembly and said that as part of the implementation of the terms of the Paris Agreement, it is necessary to create a system of strict control and monitoring of carbon emissions in the country. The Russian president noted the importance of climate change issues and spoke about the need to adapt agriculture, industry, housing and utilities and other infrastructure to them. Russia will create an “industry for the utilization of carbon emissions” to “achieve a reduction in their volumes and introduce strict control and monitoring here,” said President Putin. As a result of his address to the Federal Assembly, President Putin also instructed the Russian government to provide a bigger reduction in the volume of greenhouse gas emissions in the Russian Federation than in the European Union. The Russian government believes it is necessary to take absorptive capacity of forests into account which will make the Russian reduction more substantive than 55% of the EU.
Despite the tasks set by the President of the Russian Federation, the strategy presented by the Russian Government, even as for the intensive scenario, assumes a reduction in emissions by 48% only by 2050 (to 1.6 billion tons of CO2 equivalent). At the same time, Russia will achieve hydrocarbon neutrality only by 2100. 
Persons responsible for coordinating climate emissions policy in Russia:
– Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Mikhail Mishustin;
– Minister of Economic Development of the Russian Federation Maksim Reshetnikov.
 Bulletin on current trends in the Russian economy// Analytical Center under the Government of the Russian Federation, July, 2018. [URL: https://ac.gov.ru/files/publication/a/17409.pdf]
 Draft Strategy for Long-term Development of Russia with low greenhouse gas Emissions until 2050/ / Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation, dated March 23, 2020.
 Decree of the President of the Russian Federation of November 4, 2020 N 666 “On reducing greenhouse gas emissions” [URL: https://rg.ru/2020/11/06/parnik-dok.html]
 Draft strategy for long-term development of the Russian Federation with low greenhouse gas emissions until 2050 / / Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation, 2021 [URL: https://economy.gov.ru/material/file/babacbb75d32d90e28d3298582d13a75/proekt_strategii.pdf]