From brown to green

Greenhouse gas emissions in the G20 countries continue to grow. Russia has not yet embarked on the path to 1.5° C,” notes the recently published Brown-Green Report 2019, the world’s most comprehensive annual review of climate action by countries. Russia must have a low-carbon development strategy, and such a strategy is being prepared. Whether the elimination of monopoly in the energy sector and the long-term goals of achieving 100% renewable energy will be comprised in this strategy, still is an open question.

“None of the 20 most influential states in the world have plans that would allow them to limit global warming to 1.5° C, despite the fact that most of them are technically capable of that and have economic incentives,” the authors of the Brown-Green Report concluded.  Developed by experts from 14 research and non-governmental organizations, the document analyzes actions by 80 indicators. “For the first time ever, the report identifies untapped potential and key opportunities for countries to build up their ambitions, which will become a valuable tool for governments to update their climate plans,” the document says in its preamble.


The report provides information on the actions of the G20 on mitigation, decarbonization, climate policy, finance, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change. 


The main findings of the Brown-Green Report 2019 are as follows: energy-related CO2 emissions in the G20 countries grew up by 1.8% in 2018 due to the growing energy demand. At the same time, energy supply does not get cleaner: despite the more than 5% increase in the total amount of renewable energy in 2018, the share of fossil fuels in the energy structure of the G20 countries remains at 82% level. To follow the “1.5° C path”, this percentage should go down to at least 67% by 2030 and to 33% by 2050.

According to the experts, the main barrier for achieving climate goals is subsidizing fossil fuels. Although renewable energy currently accounts for 25.5% of electricity generation, this is not enough to outweigh the increase in emissions from fossil fuels. “Coal should be phased out by 2030 in OECD countries, and by 2040 worldwide,” the researchers say.


The report states that China, the EU, India, Indonesia, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia and Turkey will “get on the path to 1.5° C” if they exclude land-use emissions, changes in land use and forestry (LULUCF) from their National Determined Contribution.


The Brown-Green Report 2019 notes a “growing commitment” to zero-emission targets. For example, France and the United Kingdom codified by law a guideline for achieving this goal by 2050. Germany, Argentina, the EU, Italy and Mexico have also announced the adoption of similar target indexes.


According to the report, extreme weather events factor the deaths of 16 thousand people and economic losses of $ 42 billion in the G20 countries every year. In addition, several G20 countries are among the thirty countries with the highest annual mortality per capita from extreme weather events. At the same time, the report says that all G20 countries except Saudi Arabia have adaptation plans. This conclusion, one can say, is an “advance” for Russia, which has not yet adopted the Climate Adaptation Strategy at the national level.


The authors of the Brown-Green Report 2019 conclude that of the G20 countries, only Australia and Russia have no fixed policy for refusing cars with a gasoline engine.


For all participants in the Big Twenty, the authors of the Brown-Green Report 2019 have prepared individual country profiles. They conclude that today, “Russia is not yet on the way to 1.5° C”. Total greenhouse gas emissions in Russia will increase over the next decades. In 2018, coal mining and export in Russia reached a record high. In 2016–2017, Sberbank of Russia provided $1.8 million for domestic coal mining production. Infrastructure work is underway to increase coal exports to Asia. With government support, Russian oil companies are expanding gas and oil exploration in the Arctic. At the same time, the share of fossil fuels in energy production is in Russia at a level above the average in comparison with other G20 countries. Most of the Russian economy is built with the expectation of income from the extraction and export of fossil fuels.


According to experts, Russia should adopt a low-carbon strategy and a benchmark of 100% renewable energy no later than in 2050. The transition to a low-carbon economy should mean the elimination of monopoly in the energy sector. “Russia has a history of social migration related to the restructuring of the coal sector in the 1990-2000s. But this time, the restructuring is an expected phenomenon, which can be prepared for, and the government’s actions should be such that no one is hurt,” say the authors of the Brown-Green Report 2019”.

Representatives of Russian non-governmental organizations in their Statement  to the conference of the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change KS-25 note that “the largest countries emitting greenhouse gases did not announce the strengthening of targets at the UN Summit 2019, and they should stop postponing emissions reductions for the future and take action now". According to environmentalists, right now, “a coordinated effort is needed to voluntarily review the national goals. The existing goals were developed five years ago, and during this time many changes have taken place. ... We must take these conditions into account and use new opportunities.”

Unfortunately, the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, held in Madrid in the first half of December, did not change the situation;  so far, the countries failed to agree on mechanisms for implementing the Paris Agreement and on strengthening actions to limit climate change. At the Madrid conference, Russian envoys spoke about the upcoming national low-carbon development strategy. Whether or not the priorities of the Brown-Green Report 2019 are present in this strategy remains unknown.