ST PETERSBURG, Russia, Nov 5 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) -
R ussia is preparing the ground for future regulation of carbon
emissions, amid calls to wean the economy off its heavy
dependence on polluting fossil fuels.
Russia's Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has
published a draft law introducing a baseline for controlling
It includes a legal definition of greenhouse gases and how
to measure and report emissions, as well as enshrining the
government's right to regulate them.
The draft is open for public consultation until the end of
this week and is due to be passed to parliament in December,
with a view to adoption in early 2016.
According to Vladimir Berdin, vice-director of the
International Sustainable Energy Development Centre in Moscow,
the draft sets out rules for potential systems to monitor and
regulate emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other
Russia is lagging behind many other countries - including
major developing-economy emitters - in this area, experts say.
Mikhail Yulkin, head of the climate desk with the Russian
Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, noted that national
carbon schemes have been introduced or are being created in more
than 40 countries, with a further 20 systems being put in place
at sub-national levels.
"The fact that (Russia does) not have such a system only
increases our isolation, provokes suspicion and distrust among
investors and consumers, and has a very negative impact on
business and the economy," he said.
The new impetus for carbon regulation in Russia is coming
from some government ministries and businesses, including the
metals sector, and is backed by Alexander Bedritsky, a
presidential adviser on climate change, amid growing calls at
home and abroad for Russia to act.
In April, the government adopted a framework for a system to
monitor, report and verify greenhouse gas emissions, which will
be obligatory for companies and regions.
The system will be tested next year, and from 2017, all
companies with annual emissions of 50,000 tonnes of
CO2-equivalent or higher will be required to report on them.
Russia could reduce its emissions 80 to 90 percent by 2050
from 1990 levels, strengthening the resilience of its economy
which is heavily influenced by global oil and gas prices, says a
recent study by international energy researchers for the Deep
Decarbonization Pathways Project.
Today fossil fuels contribute around 70 percent of Russia's
total export revenues, and if minerals and metals are included,
the share goes up to 90 percent, the study says.
Russia is currently the world's fifth largest greenhouse gas
emitter, following China, the United States, the European Union
Its emissions fell for most of the 1990s and early 2000s as
the economy declined after the break-up of the Soviet Union and
shifted towards services and extraction of raw fossil fuels.
For the last five years, emissions have been on a slow rise,
but the current level is still 29 percent below 1990.
In its pledge for a new U.N. climate agreement due to be
finalised in Paris in December, Russia outlined plans to cut its
emissions 25 to 30 percent by 2030 from their 1990 level.
But in practice that equates to keeping them at around the
same level as now, provoking criticism by green groups.
The decarbonisation study says Russia could follow a far
more ambitious strategy that would be both economically and
technologically feasible, if the country invests heavily in
energy efficiency and renewable energy.
It would also need to switch transport, residential heating
and industrial production from fossil fuel to electricity use.
According to study co-author George Safonov from the Higher
School of Economics in Moscow, Russia's abundance of natural
resources offers huge benefits, but also creates risks, as
demonstrated by the economic slowdown which has followed a drop
in oil prices and international sanctions over the Ukraine
Official statistics from September put the number of poor
Russians at 21.7 million, or 15 percent of the population -
nearly 15 percent higher than in the first half of 2014. This is
largely explained by inflation and a rise in the cost of living.
The decarbonisation study says higher emissions cuts would
lead to growth in investments and energy bill savings that could
boost GDP by at least 1 percent per year and jobs by a net gain
of more than 3 percent by 2050.
SANCTIONS HIT FINANCE
Yet many experts doubt there is sufficient political will in
Russia for a transition to low-carbon development.
"The country will probably reach its 2030 (emissions) target
anyway, mainly due to the current economic crisis, so we have to
find new motivation and incentives," said Safonov.
Legislation supporting the development of renewables and
energy efficiency has been adopted in the last few years. But
economic woes have put many such initiatives on hold, with both
public and private investment drying up.
Oleg Pluzhnikov, a former senior official with the Ministry
of Economic Development who now heads the climate desk at the
EU-Russia Industrialists' Roundtable, said international
sanctions are blocking Russia's access to global financing for
emissions reduction measures.
In the next two to three years, it is unlikely to get any
"cheap" money for energy efficiency from international financial
institutions, he told a recent discussion on Russian climate
Lobbying by the fossil-fuel industry is another obstacle,
"Some business representatives are standing against any
carbon regulation, fearing it might increase the bureaucratic
burden on companies," he said.
(Reporting by Angelina Davydova; editing by Megan Rowling.
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