Putin vows to join climate action, but Moscow targets still low


The Kremlin.

Credit: uuseesti.ee

Speaking at an international summit convened by the White House last week, President Vladimir Putin pledged that his country, the world’s fourth-largest emitter, is determined to meet its obligations to fight climate change.

Putin’s appearance at the virtual rally via video link marked a rare moment of common ground between Russia and US President Joe Biden, who said the event showed “that two great nations can work together to do something. “.

Biden added that he was “very encouraged” by Putin’s call for collaboration on new technologies such as carbon elimination, stressing that “the nations that work together to invest in a cleaner economy will reap the rewards. for their citizens ”.

“The United States looks forward to watching with Russia and other countries in this endeavor. It’s very promising, ”Biden said. “Now is the time for all of us to build better economies for our children, our grandchildren.”

The US president’s summons of 40 world leaders, along with numerous climate experts and innovators, comes as scientists warn the globe must not be allowed to exceed an additional 1.5 degree Celsius rise, warning that to exceed this increase would spell disaster.

Russia has set many heat records in recent years, with the first half of 2020 seeing the warmest temperatures since the country began weather observations. Spikes in temperature are contributing to increasingly regular and devastating floods and forest fires in Siberia. They also threaten permafrost – the frozen ground making up about 60 percent of the country’s landmass – and the infrastructure built there, including an extensive network of oil and gas pipelines.

But while Putin insisted at the summit that he was “genuinely interested in galvanizing international cooperation in order to seek further effective solutions to climate change as well as all other vital challenges”, he did not mentioned the reduction in oil and gas consumption, both of which contribute massively to the rise in greenhouse gas levels.

Putin also gave no assurances that Russia would submit a new national carbon reduction plan – as required this year by the 2015 Paris climate agreement – claiming that Russia should be given credit for the reduction in emissions since the end of the Soviet Union and for the absorption capacity of its vast forests.

The United States, Canada, Japan and Korea all increased their commitments at the virtual summit, leaving Russia as one of the few Group of 20 countries not to aim for net zero emissions in the coming decades.

Russia’s draft low-carbon development strategy predicts that annual emissions will remain close to current levels by 2050 under the most optimistic scenario. In a State of the Nation address on Wednesday, the day before the US summit was convened, Putin said Russia’s total net emissions over the next three decades are expected to be lower than those of the European Union. .

But this does not necessarily imply a change in policy since the annual pollution of the European bloc is currently around 2 and a half times higher.

Russia currently emits around 1.6 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year, compared to around 4 billion tonnes for the EU. The baseline scenario of the long-term climate strategy to be adopted in Russia later in 2021 projects emissions of nearly 2 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2050, although this could be reduced to 1.62 billion. tonnes in a more optimistic scenario. The EU is aiming for net zero emissions by the middle of the century.

Russia’s greenhouse gas emissions have risen sharply in recent years, and its status as one of the world’s largest suppliers of fossil fuels has been bolstered by an agreement to supply gas to Germany. This status will be enhanced if the Kremlin’s plans to drill fossil fuels under the shrinking Arctic ice cap prove successful.

At the summit, Putin estimated that Russian ecosystems have the potential to absorb around 2.5 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year, although such carbon offsets are currently not recognized under the Accord. from Paris.

Last week, the Russian parliament approved a bill that requires major emitters to report their greenhouse gas emissions. But the legislation does not contemplate any measure to ensure reductions.


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