Russia predicts 30% rise in climate-warming gases by 2040

Government report dismisses efforts to cut carbon pollution, warning emissions could break 550 parts per million barrier

(Pic: Greg Westfall/Flickr)

Gazprom power station in the heart of the Russian capital (Pic: Greg Westfall/Flickr)

By Olga Dobrovidova in Moscow

A new expert report prepared for the Russian authorities sees global emissions from fuel combustion in 2040 rise by 30% from today’s levels – adding not a grain but, rather, a truckload of salt to prospects of increasing climate ambition. 

The Analytical Center for the Government of the Russian Federation, a think-tank that provides “information and analytical support” for high-level decision making, has released a revised version of its 2040 forecast for the global energy sector.

The 158-page document, seen by RTCC, presents a chilling (or not) baseline scenario where global energy-related emissions peak after 2040 and greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere may not stabilize even at 550 ppm.

OECD countries’ share of global emissions will further drop from 40% in 2011 to 28% three decades later, and they are actually likely to peak around 2020, with US lagging behind in 2023.

Interestingly, Barack Obama’s plans to cut emissions by 83% between 2005 and 2050 are casually dismissed as “likely infeasible”, as by 2040 US will be just 13.3% below its base year.

China alone is expected to be responsible for 32% of global energy CO2 emissions, and India may rival the US as second largest emitter with a 10.3% share. All in all, total annual CO2 emissions from fuel combustion are projected to exceed 40 billion tons in 2040.

Sceptical outlook

The authors note that their analysis is based on existing energy and climate policies, and although major emitters might decide to increase ambition, especially in the face of worsening climate change impacts such as extreme weather events, “that is hardly likely to happen in this decade”.

This baseline scenario assumes global average GDP growth of 3.5% annually and, more importantly, all countries sticking to their current priorities in energy policy.

This translates into a decrease in global GDP energy intensity by 44% in 2014-2040, mostly driven by China, India Japan and, to a lesser extent, EU and North America.

At the same time, primary energy consumption is projected to rise by 46% by 2040, with almost all of the increase happening outside the OECD.

This demand will be met with a ‘balanced’ energy mix of 26% oil and just as much coal, 24% natural gas and 24% all other non-fossil-based energy sources.

Renewables are expected to be the fastest growing energy sector, reaching 14.7% of global energy consumption and 12.5% in electricity generation by 2040.

Slow motion 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Russian Federation looks rather good in the report, although it grudgingly admits that the country’s huge “Achilles’ heel” problems with energy efficiency are not going anywhere at least in the next 25 years.

Furthermore, Russia, which “can somewhat benefit from warming”, apparently “sees the issue [of climate change] and its policy implications in the energy sector as ambiguous”.

The latest UNFCCC data suggests that in 2012, greenhouse gas emissions in Russia  excluding carbon sinks in the land use and forestry sector (so-called LULUCF) rose by a miniscule 0.49% due to ongoing stagnation in the economy.

This puts the country 31.74% below its 1990 emission levels and firmly on track towards achieving its 2020 target.

The trend will likely continue well into the future, with Russian ‘business as usual’ energy emissions slowly drifting upwards to 9-15% below 1990 levels in 2040.

By the next deadline of 2020, set in the presidential decree, energy-related emissions will be only 21.5% below 1990, so other sectors will have to chip in for the country to keep the promise of 25% below the base year.

The report identifies two main issues with the Russian emission trends, one of them being the notorious road transportation sector, where emissions in 2040 can even surpass their respective 1990 level by as much as 10%.

This is also the case with methane emissions, presumably as leaks in natural gas production and distribution system.

The new analysis is intended to feed into the revamped national 2035 Energy Strategy, currently being co-authored by the same experts.

As energy and climate policies are pretty much divorced in today’s Russia, it is unlikely to impact any immediate developments in carbon regulation, but arguably has some potential to further cool the Kremlin’s already lukewarm attitude towards the international climate talks.

Read more on: Research | |