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Opportunities (or duty) for Russia in the emerging global green politics

May 29, 20:08 UTC+3
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Sustainable development relies on low-carbon economy. Its pillars are energy efficiency, renewables and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. So far, Russia has been sitting on the proverbial fence when it comes to environmental commitments.

At the 21st UN Climate Change Conference (December 2015), 196 countries signed an agreement on limiting global warming to less than 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels.

  • The parties have to draft their plans to migrate to green technology and zero carbon economy by 2020. Such long-term plans through 2050 have been announced by the US, Canada, Mexico and Germany.
  • By late 2016, 111 out of 196 parties ratified the agreement. These are responsible for three quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Renewable energy sources are one way towards low-carbon economy.

  • In 2015, investments in renewables reached some USD 329 billion, and for the first time in history exceeded the total amount invested in coal and natural gas. Emerging markets outpaced the mature economies in the alternative energy race, with over one third of investments coming from China.
  • In 2016, over a half of all new power generation facilities relied on renewable energy. The share of renewables in global electricity generation is expected to grow to about 30% by 2035.
  • By 2025, the US, Canada and Mexico plan to supply 50% of their energy requirements from renewable sources.
  • Germany's intention is to boost the share of renewables to 50% by 2025, while India and China aim for 40% and 20%, accordingly, by 2040.
  • Canberra, Australia, has an ambitious plan to go 100% renewable by 2020, and achieve a zero carbon footprint status by 2050.

Under the Paris Agreement, Russia has committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 25–30% by 2030.

  • A draft ratification bill is expected by 2019, to be followed no later than in 2020 by a low-carbon development strategy going forward to 2050. The Paris Agreement obligations will become effective in 2021.
  • In April 2017, Russia adopted its national environmental security strategy, whose major goals include: combating air pollution, implementing innovative clean technologies, and fostering safe manufacturing.
  • An action list for renewables, including microgeneration, has been outlined in presidential instructions to be finalised by July 2017.

However, the International Renewable Energy Agency believes that by 2030 Russia will be lagging behind the rest of the world, regardless of the planned investments into renewables (USD 53 billion through 2035).

As of now, 65% of Russian electricity comes from conventional combined heat and power plants. Alternative sources are responsible for less than 1%.

The key climate-related challenges for Russia include: energy efficiency in public utilities, power generation, transportation and manufacturing, green transportation systems and energy efficient buildings, renewable energy expansion, and nuclear power.

  • Power consumption for each GDP dollar in Russia is two times greater than global averages. Improving energy efficiency may cut primary energy consumption by as much as 45%.
  • In spring 2017, the Ministry of Economic Development unveiled its comprehensive energy efficiency programme to call for the best available practices and technologies.
  • Some 1.5% to 2% of the GDP will be earmarked for industrial upgrade and best available practices and technologies. Starting from 2019, Russian companies will enjoy more favourable asset depreciation rates for equipment meeting the best practices and technologies requirements.
  • A bill on corporate greenhouse disclosure requirements has been drafted and will be submitted to the Russian Parliament to come into effect in early 2018.
  • Companies will be required to install automatic emission control systems, with allowable emissions and discharges capped.
  • Members of the Climate partnership of Russia (RUSNANO, RUSAL, RusHydro, VTB, Sberbank, Ingosstrakh, Alrosa and others) have signed a Joint Memorandum aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
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