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On breakthroughs and false solutions

The authors of the “Ranking of openness of regions to the Green Course” found out which of the regions of Russia are in tune with the green, and which stand aside or choose false solutions. Successful implementation of the right low-carbon measures can be a driver of positive change, believe civil society representatives.

The main evaluation criteria in the Openness Ranking published by Greenpeace Russia were the quantity and quality of the implemented Green Deal measures, the main goal of which is to achieve carbon neutrality. Russia’s Green Deal Program, following the key global development documents, i.e., the Paris Climate Agreement and the Sustainable Development Agenda, was prepared last year in partnership with the Russian Socio-Ecological Union (RSEU), the climate network of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia CAN EECCA and a number of other environmental organizations.

The initiators of the ranking formulated their goal as follows: to determine the level of understanding and involvement of regional authorities in climate policy. The document is based on the results of responses to the requests to the authorities of all subjects of the Russian Federation, which were invited to report on the low-carbon initiatives already implemented or planned to be implemented soon in the region.

In accordance with the directions of the “Green Deal”, the experts identified actions that they called “breakthroughs”, suggesting a significant step forward compared to most regions. These include the introduction of renewable energy sources (RESs), energy efficiency, hydrogen power, and electrification of transport.

The experts also named climate-friendly projects to prevent and reduce waste generation. These include limiting the use of disposable goods, separate collection, and recycling of waste, the use of reusable goods, the possibility of using reusable containers and packaging in retail and catering, the availability of services for sharing (shearing), renting, and repairing goods.

The first two places in the ranking went to the Far Eastern regions. The leader was the Sakhalin region, which became the first region of Russia, which has adopted a goal of carbon neutrality by 2025. Second place was shared between the Khabarovsk Territory and the Leningrad Region. In the rank of leaders, the Khabarovsk region has brought the use of recycled products for regional and municipal needs. The Leningrad Region was also noted for its initiatives in waste management and the introduction of heat pumps. Moscow, which took third place, became the leader of the ranking due to the improvement and electrification of the public transport system as well as the project for the issue of “green” bonds.

The use of recyclable products for regional and municipal needs, as well as other anti-waste initiatives, helped Sverdlovsk and Saratov regions to be at the top of the ranking. “In the city of Yekaterinburg, activists are implementing a project called ‘Thing of Kindness.’ The project is designed to solve the problem of the disposal of unused items. The clothes collected as part of this project are sent either to charity or to recycling,” explain the authors of the ranking.

Also approved by experts were initiatives to handle food waste and the use of reusable items. “These activities contribute to reducing landfills and saving natural resources,” the experts believe.

However, according to the authors of the document, it is important not only to introduce advanced technologies but also not to succumb to the temptation of using false solutions, i.e., technologies and approaches that are deceptively considered environmentally friendly.

The experts classified the construction of nuclear power plants (NPPs) and large hydroelectric power plants (HPPs) and waste incineration as false solutions. The authors of the ranking also explain that projects to develop hydrogen energy can be considered “green” only if hydrogen is obtained at the expense of electricity from renewable sources.

As a result of analysis of responses received from the regions, it became known that the most common false solutions in Russian regions include gasification of the transport sector, electricity, and heating; incineration of solid municipal waste (MSW), including energy generation; use of single-use biodegradable and paper bags and packaging as an alternative to plastic.

As the authors of the document state, so far in practice, not a single region of Russia in its activities has fulfilled the program necessary to stabilize the climate and achieve carbon neutrality.

Representatives of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs believe that regional initiatives are often ahead of national programs, and therefore play an important role in Russia’s transition to “green” development. According to environmental activists, this transition must take into account untapped reserves of energy efficiency and renewable energy, principles of cyclic economy, conservation of natural ecosystems, and application of best available technologies and approaches aimed at real reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

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