Climate Change Loss and Damage Are Causing Thawing Permafrost, Water Stress, Heat Waves, and Deforestation in Russia

Global climate change has impacted the human potential, economy, and ecosystems of all countries of the world, and Russia is no exception. In the north part of the country, the most significant climate risk is the thawing permafrost which is the most acute. This carries the risk of destruction of the infrastructure located on it. In the south, the population faces water stress: the lack of fresh water has a negative impact on agriculture, which is crucial for the economy of the regions, and exacerbates the problem of the population’s access to clean drinking water. The European part of the country is at risk of increased heatwaves[1], which increase mortality rates during hot seasons, especially among the elderly, those with chronic diseases, young children, and socially isolated people.[2] In Siberia, the problem of forest fires has increased which not only causes a reduction in forest cover and destruction of infrastructure but also poses a threat to human life.

The Government of the Russian Federation approved the National Action Plan for the first stage of adaptation to climate change for the period up to 2022, then in October 2021, the Russian Government approved the Strategy for the Socio-economic Development of Russia with low greenhouse gas emissions until 2050, which provides for a large-scale reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and achieving carbon neutrality no later than 2060.[3] In this strategy, two main development scenarios are proposed – inertial and intensive. The latter assumes that net GHG emissions can be reduced by more than 80% by 2050 compared to the current level.

Achieving this ambitious goal by 2050 is planned to be achieved using potential renewable energy sources (RES), biofuel production, large-scale energy efficiency improvements, electrification of energy end-use, and other decarbonization measures. Active and rapid action will also be required to reduce emissions, especially after 2030, by replacing obsolete equipment and technologies with more efficient and carbon-free ones in all sectors of the economy, switching from coal and gas to green energy sources (biofuels, RES, capture technologies and carbon storage (CCS), etc.), large-scale energy efficiency improvements.

Deep decarbonization scenarios for Russia show that GHG emissions can be reduced by 87% by 2050 compared to 2010. The additional annual cost of decarbonizing the country’s energy industry is estimated at $12 billion by 2030 and $42 billion by 2050.[4] Such a reduction in GHG emissions could be achieved if total primary energy production is reduced by 27% by 2050, with significant changes in the structure of energy production and consumption in favor of carbon-free technologies and energy sources. The production of second and third-generation biofuels and green hydrogen can become important areas for the development of green energy in Russia.[5]

The forestry and land use sectors can play a significant role in transitioning to a low-carbon economic model. There is great potential in increasing the carbon storage capacities of forest ecosystems and transitioning to low-carbon technologies in agriculture. However, climate change, intensive logging, and insufficiently efficient forest management practices have an extremely negative impact on the potential of СО2 absorption in the country’s forestry.

So, according to the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, from 2009 to 2019, net carbon sequestration by forests decreased from 750 to about 600 million tons of СО2 per year.[6] Obviously, the risks of forest fires, the spread of diseases, and pests will increase as the average annual temperature rises further.

Therefore, large-scale measures are needed to reduce fire and other negative impacts on forest ecosystems and use the potential of nature-based solutions to increase carbon sequestration and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the land use and forestry sectors.

[1]* A natural phenomenon characterized by significant warming spreading in a certain direction, associated with the horizontal movement of a warm air mass.

[2] Smith K. et al. Human health: Impacts, adaptation, and co-benefits // Climate Change 2014: Impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. Part A: Global and sectoral aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. P. 709–754.

[3] Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation of October 29, 2021 No. 3052-r.

[4] Safonov G. et al. The low carbon development options for Russia

[5] Action plan for the development of hydrogen energy in the Russian Federation until 2024 // Ministry of Energy of the Russian Federation

[6] National report of the Russian Federation on the inventory of anthropogenic emissions from sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases not regulated by the Montreal Protocol // Roshydromet

Image Source: Alexander Grir / AFP

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Russia Country Manager Michael Oshchepkov


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