Russia joins US in filing Paris climate change pledge

Kremlin meets early deadline for submissions but questions raised over ambition of carbon cutting goals

(Pic: Flickr/Pavel Kazachkov)

(Pic: Flickr/Pavel Kazachkov)

By Ed King

Russia joined the US late on Tuesday in meeting a UN deadline to deliver its initial offer for a UN climate change deal due to be signed off in Paris later this year. 

The Kremlin suggested it could slash greenhouse gas emissions by up to 30% on 1990 levels by 2030, although it said the level of its ambition would depend on offers other countries put forward.

In a statement on the UN climate body website it said this goal would “allow the Russian Federation to step on the path of low-carbon development compatible with the long-term objective of the increase in global temperature below 2C”.

WWF-Russia spokesperson Alexey Kokorin said the plan was “too conservative” and questioned the role of the country’s forests, which act as vast carbon sinks, in its proposal.

Russia should reconsider its climate plans as submitted to the UN when the current national economic crisis is past; they should agree to more ambitious mitigation targets for 2025 and 2030,” he said.

Finnish climate negotiator Matti Kahra also called on Russia to clarify how its boreal forests would be used to meet its overall goal.

“Unlimited forest sink use would wipe away 24% of their total emissions away instantly,” he tweeted.

As of Tuesday night 29% of global emissions were covered by what the UN calls “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs).

The EU’s 28 member states, Norway, Switzerland and Mexico submitted their INDCs well before the March 31 deadline, set in 2013 for countries “ready to do so”.

The US goal of 26-28% GHG cuts by 2025 on 2005 levels had already been announced last year, when president Barack Obama announced a climate agreement with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jingping.

“We have a strong, clear pathway to cuts of over 80% by 2050. We hope the target will help spur others,” said Washington’s climate envoy Todd Stern in a conference call with reporters.

China is expected to release its official offer by June, but it is unclear when other leading industrial economies such as Japan, Australia or Canada will commit to a Paris deal.

In a statement the UN’s chief climate official Christiana Figueres said she was happy with the initial set of pledges, but urged other countries to come forward.

“The pace at which these contributions are coming forward bodes well for Paris and beyond,” she said, adding that 65% of developed country emissions were now covered by INDCs.

Paris tracker: Who has pledged what for 2015 UN climate pact? 

Tony de Brun, foreign minister of the Marshall Islands, said Tuesday’s announcements had offered “no surprises” and called on bigger emitters like the US to start doing the “heavy lifting”.

China, he said, should consider copying Mexico and move its proposed CO2 peaking year forward to 2026 from 2030.

On Monday, a spokesperson for China’s ministry of foreign affairs said China is still doing research on its INDC and will attempt to announce its offer before the middle of this year.

Analysts with the Climate Action Tracker organisation say the INDCs filed to the UN will not ensure the world avoids warming of above 2C, which scientists say will lead to more extreme weather events.

The UN is set to conduct its own analysis in October, when it hopes the majority of national pledges have been documented.

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