Paris Agreement: countries head towards record high

Along with over 170 other countries, Russia signed the Paris Agreement – the new international climate agreement due to replace the Kyoto protocol – at a ceremony held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. This day will be remembered for the highest number of countries that signed an international agreement on day one.

The global climate keeps breaking one record after another. “Record global temperatures. Record ice loss. Record carbon levels in the atmosphere. We are in a race against time,” said ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary General at the opening ceremony.
There is not a single country in the world, for which the implementation of the Climate Agreement would be a very easy task. It is a challenge for the entire human race, given that a number of tough political and economic decisions have to be made in order to reach the desired objectives, experts say.

On behalf of Russia, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Khloponin signed the Agreement. Prior to the ceremony, the Russian Government had issued a corresponding executive order №670-r. Aside from that, Russia’s Ministry of Natural Resources developed and submitted for approval a project of integrated measures to implement the Paris Agreement. The measures include an evaluation of social and economic consequences of the Agreement for Russia, development of a Ratification Act, as well as of a Presidential Decree to reduce emissions by 2030, a long-term low-carbon development strategy until 2050, and measures to reduce emission from forestry. Among other planned measures are the development of a National Climate Adaptation Plan, a model of state regulation of GHG emissions, as well as drafting of a corresponding Federal Law.

Negative effects of climate change are quite significant for the Russian territory. Our temperatures grow twice as fast as the global average. It is worth mentioning that Russia, unlike the developed countries, does not have the obligation to take part in climate financing schemes, but may do so on voluntary basis. In April 2016, the Government decided to launch a joint initiative between Russia and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), aimed at building the capacity of countries in need to withstand the negative effects of climate change. $10 million from Russia's state budget will be earmarked for that purpose in 2016-2018.

Even if the very signing of the Paris Agreement does not imply any risks or obligations for the country, being a part of the Agreement is already a challenge. First of all, it is a challenge for the current state of affairs in Russia’s economy, which is based on the export of fossil fuels. The climate friendly plans to create low-carbon zones in Siberia, proclaimed by the Head of the Ministry of Natural Resources, were met with outspoken displeasure by regional authorities and fossil-oriented businesses.

What does the implementation of Climate Agreement mean for Russia? Not only does it imply additional measures, it means taking the necessary –and immediate- action, considering a high degree of obsolescence and deterioration of Russia’s infrastructure.

Russia should use the great financial, technological and other opportunities provided by the Paris Agreement to not only modernize its economy, but also to take the road of low-carbon development, say environmental NGOs. These measures and actions are going to give a boost to the economic growth, to the development of Russian innovative technologies, and to the reduction of our dependency on imported energy resources and their global prices fluctuations. It will also help people cut their heating bills and create new green jobs.

The fact that the Agreement is signed is very important, but it has to be followed by a ratification and, what is most important, real action. In order to fight climate change, the Governments have to approve their national climate plans in a timely manner, ensure a transition to renewable energy sources and put an end to fossil fuel subsidies.