Russia: (a) Strengthen country’s Paris Agreement pledge; (b) Lessen reliance on forest absorption to backstop its NDC pledge
The Russian Federation has committed to reduce its emissions to the 70-75% levels of year 1990 by 2030 as of March 31, 2015. The pledge of 25-30% reduction seems to be an ambitious target, however there are two major caveats. First, the Russian pledge is based on the plan that GHG emission reductions will occur as a condition of the maximum possible account of their boreal forests’ CO2 absorption capacity. Second, after the year 1990 the Russian Federation experienced a significant decline in its industrial capacities due to the collapse of Soviet Union and therefore emissions reduced “naturally” because of economic crisis within the country and not because of any additional measures. Therefore, under the current conditions the achievement of 25-30% emissions reduction is possible even without taking any further actions. Moreover, when comparing current emissions levels to the levels of 1990 it appears that Russia can still increase its emissions and comply with the INDC pledge at the same time.
For every assessment, the most crucial step is a careful definition of the baseline against which further actions would be compared. According to the available information on the Russian Federation INDC pledge, it seems that the baseline has been poorly defined. This has created the fact that the Russian Federation does not need to implement any further actions to achieve the INDC pledge. Hence, undoubtedly the pledge of the Russian Federation should be revised. I believe there could be two main adjustments undertaken. First, the year for comparison could be updated for Russia. The baseline year for comparison could be shifted to the time after the collapse of the Soviet Union when industrial capacities were already down. Alternatively, the year could remain the same but the target percent of emission reduction could be increased so that it will require certain measures to be undertaken to achieve the target reduction. Second, the input from boreal forest absorbing capacity could be reduced in the pledge for the sake of stimulating other measures to reduce GHG emissions.
As described above, because of a poorly defined baseline for GHG emissions reduction, Russia has been in compliance with its INDC pledge and has been significantly reducing GHG emissions without any major action undertaken, if compared to the levels of year 1990.
Nonetheless, there is a list of measures that have been taken forward to reduce GHG emissions in Russia. For the moment, those measures are mainly focused on energy efficiency measures and the introduction of renewable energy sources. A focus mainly on the energy sector to reduce GHG emissions could be a tricky point to tackle because fossil fuels remain the major cheap source of energy in Russia. Even though renewable energy can undoubtedly have a significant positive influence on reducing Russia’s GHG emissions, it is not easy to convince industries to shift to renewable energy sources since fossil fuels are more cost effective.
Therefore, I believe it is important to highlight areas that could be beneficial both economically and environmentally and that there should be a demand for those actions from Russia’s population. Addressing the following two issues could help to reduce GHG emissions and be beneficial to Russia’s people, environment and economy:
1. Transportation: Russia is using mainly gasoline cars and cars with older engines. This causes smog and air pollution. In addition, the price of gasoline is raising continuously and this puts limits on the population regarding their use of cars. Hence, two kinds of regulations could be taken. First, higher standards could be put on cars’ engines to reduce air pollution and smog. Second, regulations that stimulate the use of electric cars should be put in place. Those two measures would be beneficial to the health of the population and would allow the country to reduce its GHG emissions.
2. Waste: Russia has significant amounts of waste that are not recycled and that are disposed of in their landfills. Landfills are the source of significant amounts of GHGs and reducing the number of landfills would reduce GHG emissions, reduce soil contamination and reduce negative health impacts on the population. More stringent regulation on waste recycling and reuse would allow reducing the amount of waste going to the landfill and hence reduce GHG emissions.