Russia’s Last Day at UN Climate Talks in Lima

On the last day of Lima climate talks, Russia held an event titled ‘Goals and Objectives of the Russian Climate Policy up to 2020 and Prospects for 2030’. The same day Russia along with Ukraine and Belarus received the Fossil of the Day public anti-award for unconstructive behavior during the negotiations.

On the last morning of the negotiations, the Russian delegation held their only side event where public observers, journalists, as well as representatives of other countries’ delegations were able to hear Russia’s position and ask their questions. The side event was held under the title ‘Goals and Objectives of the Russian Climate Policy up to 2020 and Prospects for 2030’.

Alexander Bedritsky, Advisor to the President of the Russian Federation, Special Envoy for Climate and Head of the Delegation of the Russian Federation, stated that, ‘Talking about specific actions and results, I can tell you that between 1998 and 2008 Russia’s emissions dropped by 12%, while the GDP increased by 67%. At the same time, the carbon intensity of our economy is greater than that of an average developed country. However, even considering our climate characteristics, there is a possibility to decrease it. The current policy of the Russian Federation is aimed at low-carbon development and energy efficiency. In the past ten years, we have adopted a wide range of laws that deal with environmental protection and energy efficiency, with the goal of reducing our energy intensity by 13% by 2020. It is well known that Russia is not only a world exporter of natural resources, but also their largest consumer. The energy sector contributes 80% of total emission. This is why the energy efficiency of our economy is our most important focus area. It is also important to increase the amount of energy from non-carbon fuel, which nowadays only amounts up to one third of total energy production. Nuclear energy makes up 17%, while 16% comes from hydropower. However, the policy of the Russian Federation is aimed at increasing the amount of energy produced from renewable sources…’

Alexander Bedritsky emphasized the fact that Russia has 19% of the world’s forest area, thus making the country the world’s ‘environmental donor’. ‘The forests absorb more carbon dioxide than any other ecosystem, therefore sustainable forestry and forest conservation are crucial for reducing the anthropological impact.’

Vladimir Maksimov, Head of Unit for Ecology and Natural Resources Use, Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation, in his presentation titled ‘Russia on the Way to Green Economy’, pointed out that ‘There are both good and bad news. The good news is that the associate gas utilization increased a lot. In 2012, it was at the level of 76.7%, in 2014 – at 86.7%, and in 2016 it is estimated to reach 95%. The bad news is that between 2008 and 2011 there was a crisis, and the GDP per capita dropped, while the emissions rose dramatically. Between 2002 and 2008, the emissions grew by 0.96% and between 2010 and 2011 – by 4.5% and 4.7% respectively. We found out that the reason to this was the transport sector. In this particular sector, the growth is higher than elsewhere. In big cities, transport contributes 80% of the total emissions. In Moscow the same number is 92%.’

‘The share of renewable energy sources (without taking hydropower into account) is 0.3%. We plan to bring this value to 2.5% by 2020,' says Mr. Maximov. However, in the Energy Strategy that was adopted in 2009, the Government of the Russian Federation stated the goal of 4.5% renewables by 2020. (https://www.google.ru/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CBwQ...)

Georgy Safonov, Director, Center for Environmental and Natural Resource Economics, National Research University, Higher School of Economics, said, ‘It is very difficult to make projections of our GHG emissions for the coming years. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, says that carbon absorption by Russian forests will decrease. Big scale forest fires and logging largely contribute to that. We have studied whether Russia might undertake the complete transition to a carbon-free economy. In the scenario until 2050, the goal is 1.7 tons of carbon dioxide per person per year. This goal corresponds to keeping the temperature rise within 2 degrees. We created the model that shows the way the economy should look like. Reducing population does not mean emissions reduction. Some regions have a great potential to reduce GHG emissions. According to our model, the amount of energy from biomass is bound to increase. However, nuclear energy plays an important part in this model.’

‘The main implication is that the current economic scenario will cost us the same as the transition to the low-carbon model,’ surprisingly concludes Mr. Safonov.

Andrey Stetsenko, Moscow State University and President of CEI (Center for Environmental Innovation, NGO), said, regarding carbon sequestration by Russian forests, ‘We are a country with a lot of forest. However, not only does forest absorb carbon dioxide, it also emits it. This happens as the result of forest fires, logging, etc. The absorption will decrease in intensity over time, and may even drop to zero and below. There are economic mechanisms that promote forest conservation. During the first commitment period of the Kyoto protocol, we had two afforestation projects. The first one was implemented in Voronezh in 2001. We planted forest belts on agricultural land. Our organization also carried out an afforestation project in Altai region, where 10,000 hectares of forest were planted. All the necessary procedures, including determination and verification, were carried out within Kyoto framework. The information was submitted onto the UN website, and the website of the State Forest Register of the Russian Federation. But this kind of projects are not viable without proper support. After Kyoto-1 ended, we were forced to ask for public support. In the end, people from twelve countries and three continents supported the project.

In the future, projects on forest protection against fires, and planting of new forests will be of immediate concern. For the agricultural sector, the planting of forest belts, or windbreaks, will play a major role. I would like to illustrate this by our Altai example. In 1990, Altai had 140,000 hectares of windbreaks. In 2011, an inventory was conducted, and it was realized that only 69,000 hectares were left. At the moment, the Altai administration is concerned about the agricultural land degradation in their region, and they are planning to plant 190,000 hectares of windbreaks. In order to undertake such an ambitious project, the mechanisms of the next climate agreement are required. We hope that boreal forests will be included in the next climate agreement along with tropical forests. We also hope to be able to use the experience from the projects, previously carried out under Kyoto. We hope that mechanisms like REDD (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reducing_emissions_from_deforestation_and_f...), but with consideration for boreal forests, will be included into the next agreement. Conservation of boreal forests is extremely important for saving the climate and keeping the global temperature from rising.’

During the Questions and Answers session, Tatiana Shauro of the Climate Secretariat, Russian Socio-Ecological Union, asked, ‘You’ve said so much about the importance of Russian forests. So, is our country going to join the New York Declaration on Forests?’ This confused the speakers a little. However, later on Anna Romanovskaya, Institute of Global Climate and Ecology of Roshydromet and the Russian Academy of Sciences, joined them on stage. She said, ‘We did not take part in the writing of the Declaration. We just received the final text. We were extremely unhappy with the fact that only tropical forests were mentioned in the Declaration. Boreal forests are a separate very important issue. But there are no on-going negotiations dealing with the inclusion of boreal forests into the new agreement.’

Fossil of the Day

On Friday, December 12, Russia, along with Ukraine and Belarus, received the second place at Fossil of the Day anti-award for slowing-down the negotiations because of the Amendment adopted at the UN negotiations in Doha in 2012. (This Amendment requires the countries to stabilize their GHG emissions by 2020 at the 2008-2010 level and makes it impossible to accumulate new emissions quotas in the second commitment period in order to sell them to other countries. The Amendment was adopted without full consent of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine, which goes against the basic principles of UNFCCC. In this scheme there is a possibility to use previously accumulated AAUs to account for emissions reduction. However, Belarus does not possess such a surplus, since it only joined the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. Russia supports Belarus on that issue. During the first days of Lima negotiations, Ukraine also made a stand for its right to use the old quotas.)

This means that the matter of specific rules for the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol will be postponed until Paris. The reason why Russia, Belarus and Ukraine adopted such a stance is quite clear. Nevertheless, it would have been more constructive to look for ways to support an accelerated energy efficient modernization of our countries instead of wasting so much energy (pun intended!) on keeping the status quo in terms of the emissions. The unlikely allies chose to sacrifice real action and failed to reach any sensible goal in Lima. Watch the video here. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBaNQgGAt9A)

After the award took place, Ukraine announced its intention to get back to the issue. In his Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/igor.shevchenko?fref=ts), the Ukrainian Minister of Environment Igor Shevchenko said that he ‘decided to adopt a progressive position of the European Union on this matter’.

‘We waited for the final decision of our Minister’, said Vitaly Kondratyev, Deputy Head of the Department of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources of Ukraine said in an interview in Lima. ‘Today we met with the German delegation and the European Union delegation, and confirmed that the EU way is the only way for Ukraine. We agreed on the text and the Kyoto rules.’ (Source: Bloomberg (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-12-12/ukraine-alligns-with-russia-in-...)