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Russia’s Special Climate Way

At the UN COP22 Climate Conference in Marrakech, where countries, companies, and coalitions declared the unconditional priority of the green energy, Russia indicated its special way: the medium-term priorities are focused on gas extraction development, enhancement of energy efficiency in the coal and material-intensive industries and also on nuclear power production.

On November 16, the head of the Russian delegation Alexander Bedritsky stated in his presentation that “…we do not consider abandoning carbohydrates as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions within the frame of execution of the liabilities we had assumed in the mid-term prospect. It is necessary … to take into consideration national peculiarities and interests of the country, particularly … the role and potential of energy saving, natural gas, implementation if innovative low-emission technologies for utilization of coal, methane, creation of new material properties, prevention of emissions and enhancement of drainages in the forest ecosystem of our country.”

On November 17, a press-conference of the Rosatom Corporation and the World Nuclear Association took place in Marrakech, where on behalf of the Association Agneta Rising stated that the nuclear industry was ready to triple its capacities by 2050 in order to produce 25% of the global electrical power. She brought the argument that presently 450 NPSs in the world generate the amount of energy which allows to avoid emissions in the total of 2.5 billion tons of CO2 annually, as compared to the base coal generation which in routinely replaced. The Rosatom representative Kirill Komarov proposed an optimistic image of the NPSs development in Russia and the prospect of a cyclic scheme for solving the problem of radioactive waste. However, the presenters did not say a single word about the risks of radioactive accidents, nor about the unsolved problem of the existing and accumulating decommissioned nuclear assemblies, nor about the issues with nuclear stations of the new generation (New-Voronezh NPS was emergently stopped two weeks after its setting in operation). Not a word was said about the “cosmic” sums of losses caused by accidents outcomes and the existing system of the nuclear industry wastes treatment and their impact on the nature and human beings.
Many public observers had doubts about the relevancy of this event exactly within the frame of the UN Climate Conference where nuclear energy is not a subject of negotiations and has even been excluded from the mechanisms of clean development operating within the frame of the Kyoto Protocol up until 2020. Obviously, the reason was the desire to use the favorable conference format for promoting the nuclear product by its managers.

In the night of November 17, the official event of the Russian delegation entitled “Low-Carbon Russia: Challenges and Opportunities” took place. The presenters were Head of the RF Delegation, Presidential Adviser on the climate issues Alexander Bedritsky, Minster of the Environment of Morocco Kakima Khaite, Deputy Director General of the National Organization for the Support of Projects of Carbon Adsorption Oleg Pluzhnikov, Department Director of the Ministry of Economic Development Yaroslav Mandron, and representatives of Rosatom, Rosnano, and Rusal.

Yaroslav Mandron, Department Director of the Ministry of Economic Development, pointed out that in the sphere of energy efficiency heat production, i.e., communal sector, buildings and constructions, and transport are the major drivers. For the next 15-20 years, potential of economic profitability in these spheres could be estimated in the amount of 1200 billion euro. Nevertheless, the accent was made on the development of nuclear power and co-generation of heat and electricity with the help of which it is expected to reduce emissions for more than 40% by 2050 as compared to 2015indicators.

In the opinion of Y. Mandron, new capacities are not that important: we have surplus in energy production, but we need replacement of the rundown hardware, and we need incentive measures for modernizations in the power sector and attraction of external investments for energy-efficient projects. Up until 2030, Russia will be following the scenario of “soft measures” for emission reduction; by 2030, we need an analysis and the choice of the further scenario: most likely, a stricter overseeing and control on emissions.

All three companies presented at the event (Rosatom, Rosnano, and Rusal) belong to the Russian Partnership for Climate Preservation (altogether, it presently embraces 19 companies) and act as active developers of regulatory measures on greenhouse gas emissions. These and other major companies (e.g., Gazprom) are starting to gradually invest in the renewable energy production (RESs). Rosnano has invested in the wind park in the south of Russia and in the construction of a plant for production of wind generators in the Ulyanovsk region. However, so far this is more like a decoration of the image rather than a real break-through in the technologies and support to the quantative and qualitative development of RESs in the country.

On November 18, at the office of the RF Delegation at COP22, representatives of the RSEU Climate Secretariat met with Alexander Bedritsky. The Head of the Russian Delegation commented on the aspects of the RF official position which had caused a lot of criticism from the part of public and journalists.

According to Alexander Bedritsky, the Russian position is based on the assessment of the present country’s capacities, unlike that of some other countries, the ambitious declarations of which sometimes bring to reconsideration of their commitments or direct their failures in implementation. Russia is traditionally considered as a non-forward player on the climate arena; however, the coal quota in RF is lower than that in Germany, and the quota of nuclear energy is lower than in France. Mr. Bedritsky expressed his regrets that often Russia’s positive initiatives remain unnoticed because of prejudices, while many reasonable proposals remain ignored, as was ignored Russia’s proposal made in Bali regarding accounting of countries’ voluntary obligations. However, a few years later, this idea had reappeared on its own and now it is the basis of the new climate regime.

Mr. Bedritsky stressed that for efficient realization of the Paris Agreement, transparent regulations, including those on the accounting of obligations and reporting on their implementation, are necessary. By his words, more attention should be paid at negotiations to adaptation and, also, issues of fair and seamless transfer of traditional extracting industries to greener options - without causing damages to the local residents for whom often it is the only way for making living (in case of the one-industry towns, etc.). According to Bedritsky, Russia does no abandon its obligations to reduce emissions; this is just the matter of time: we cannot compare our country with small countries where installation of several RESs can solve all problems. We need time to provide for evolutionary and revolutionary transition process, Mr. Bedritsky concluded.

At the meeting, Alexander Bedritsky was handed the Position of Russian non-governmental organizations for COP22. It is stressed in the Position that public activists find it extremely important to re-focus state subsidies from fossil fuels to RESs and energy efficiency. Public activists also drew attention to the fact that because of the long-term and broad-scale environmental and social damages, both nuclear power production and major low-land HPSs could not be considered as instruments of the climate policy.