Russia new 2020 target could see emissions rise by 30%

By Olga Dobrovidova

Russia’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has rolled out an unambitious version of the national 2020 emissions reduction target.

The infamous piece of legislation is now more than six months old – it was supposed to be signed by Putin before Doha and by the end of 2012, but last time we heard it was once again sent back to the ministry for redrafting.

You would think that one can rewrite four paragraphs on one page only so many times, especially given that Russia already has a publicly announced 2020 target inscribed in the Copenhagen accord.

But this would be an underestimation of the environment ministry’s creative abilities.

2012, as we know, was mainly about the target: first it was an inexplicable 20% decrease below 1990 levels, then, for a brief period of clarity, the 25% target that most experts agree is reasonable, and then, during Doha, there was a sudden backsliding to 15-25%.

A lot of face-palming ensued, and finally the new inter-ministerial working group on climate change and sustainable development put an end to that discussion by officially endorsing the 25% goal.

So yeah, it has stopped raining, but don’t put away your umbrellas yet. The problem now is a bit more subtle and has to do with accounting for land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF).

Russia’s total carbon stock in forests without soil organics in 2010 was over 50 billion tonnes (Flickr/ninara)

Russia’s GHG emissions when accounted for forest carbon sinks in 2010 were around 55% below 1990 levels, and unless the decree has direct and explicit wording on LULUCF exclusion, it is just ‘utter nonsense’, says WWF Russia’s climate and energy coordinator Alexey Kokorin.

“If one assumes that this is a target with forest sinks, then in order to fail to achieve it by 2020 we would have to increase the amount of fossil fuels burned in the country by more than a third. And that’s mission impossible stuff, we simply do not have that much fuel”, Kokorin told RTCC.

He noted that no-one in the expert community, including people in the business of making long-term economic forecasts and modelling, really takes the idea of including LULUCF in the national target seriously, but, apparently, “government officials are too afraid to formally exclude it”.

“It (the forests exclusion clause – RTCC) is literally flashing, now you see it – now you don’t… Why the panic? Why do we need to overprotect ourselves by leaving a blank there on purpose, when no one will fine us for not achieving our national goal?”, Kokorin wonders.

There’s no indication of when the new draft could be submitted for approval, but technical notes on the document suggest this can happen no earlier than April 2013.

Hopefully by the time it finally happens, the 2020 target is still relevant, although one more alteration to the text makes you wonder whether the ministry shares that hope – instead of simply ‘by 2020’ it is now ‘by 2020 and beyond’.

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