Russia outlines plans to meet 2020 climate goals

Draft document outlines how Moscow can meet 25% carbon reduction target by 2020, promising tougher accounting standards

(Pic: Bigstock)

(Pic: Bigstock)

By Olga Dobrovidova

The Russian Ministry of Economic Development has rolled out its draft plan of action to deliver the current 2020 goal of keeping carbon emissions 25% below 1990 levels.

The document, seen by RTCC, was sent to deputy prime minister Arkady Dvorkovich last week and is now under review.

Russia’s 25% target, the upper bound of the country’s 2009 Copenhagen pledge, was affirmed with a presidential decree last September, after more than a year of uncertainty and procedural wrangling.

Internationally this target is considered to be within business as usual scenarios, but in its supplementary notes the Ministry claims that, with emissions in 2011 just around 30% below 1990 levels, “the risks of breaking the commitment to reduce GHG emissions… can be significant”.

The plan generally builds on the work done by a joint working group between MED and Delovaya Rossiya, a coalition of businesses mostly supporting carbon regulation.

Between 2014-2016, crucial years for global climate policymaking, Russia will focus on three main avenues – 2020 and post-2020 scenarios, mandatory and voluntary carbon reporting and pilot actions.

By October 2014, the economic ministry, along with their colleagues in environment, energy, industry and trade, is supposed to present a general concept of what looks like an measuring, reporting and verification (MRV) system for Russian businesses.

Vague figures

Today most Russian companies prefer to stay away from the global trend of carbon reporting whenever they can.

According to the Carbon Disclosure Project’s 2013 Global 500 Climate Change Report, six out of 10 Russian companies surveyed either declined to participate or just did not respond.

In the first half of 2015, the government is supposed to come up with methodological guidance on measuring emissions and reporting on them, with the first national report on this data to come in June 2016.

Environment NGOs in their comments on the plan support this move, noting that any verification should be done in compliance with international standards and by ISO14065-certified expert bodies. They also want the national registry for these reports to be available for public access online.

Farming opt-out

Next comes breaking the overall 2020 goal into sectoral targets, something that was mandated by the original decree.

As is often the case with Russia, first MED has to prepare some “recommendations” for setting these targets, and the targets themselves should be ready a year later, in October 2015.

There are two interesting things to note here.

One is a letter by the Ministry of Agriculture formally asking to “unsubscribe” from developing sectoral targets – hardly surprising turn of events given that the last time Russia’s agriculture minister, Nikolay Fyodorov, spoke of climate change, he claimed it would be beneficial for the country’s agriculture.

In reality, most industry experts discard potential benefits as short-term and insignificant, whereas losses from droughts, extreme weather events and declining productivity in 2020 can exceed 100 billion roubles (around $2.7 billion), according to the Center for Environmental Economics and Natural Resources of Russia’s Higher School of Economics.

The ministry’s request is likely to be accepted, since the latest draft plan already has no mention of it in the relevant parts. Yet one of the authors of the document assured RTCC this does not necessarily mean agriculture will be excluded from Russia’s domestic carbon policy.

The other curious thing is hidden in a rather harmless-looking section of the plan, proposing to amend just one document that has to do with new building projects.

There are no details on this particular proposal yet, but earlier discussions imply that, in effect, this might mean that starting June 2015, all new buildings and infrastructure facilities in Russia could come with a mandatory carbon footprint calculation at project stage.

UN pledge

Somewhat encouragingly, the plan sees the first scenario note on Russia’s emissions trajectory up to 2020 and beyond – that is, up to 2030 – prepared by November 2014.

This means that the country’s delegation might be able to deliver on its promise to present a draft post-2020 goal in Lima, at the next UN climate conference.

Environment activists want the goal to be set at minus 40% from 1990 levels, which would imply large-scale decarbonisation of the Russian economy, but so far there have been no official indications on the matter.

Finally, under “measures of state carbon regulation” we have more methodological work, with a glimpse of enhanced support for pilot initiatives in the Russian regions.

Among other things, an official review of current emissions reduction policies already in place, due to be presented in October 2014, should be an interesting read.

The plan seems to be ‘open-ended’ – its last two elements feature a bigger follow-up action plan and a roadmap for reducing emissions in the state sector, strategically scheduled for September 2016, after the deadline for the much-awaited new global agreement.

The NGOs cautiously endorse the document, noting that “at this point, a stronger version is probably unlikely to be adopted”.

According to the September 2013 presidential decree, the plan has to be adopted by the government before the end of March this year, but, given the current political and economic situation in the country, no one is holding their breath for an issue that still fails to make the top 50 in Russia’s priorities.

Meanwhile, officials and the expert community will get their chance to discuss the document at the upcoming international conference “Designing Russian Carbon Emission Regulation System: Challenges and Approach”, hosted by Delovaya Rossiya in Moscow on March 12.

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