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Russia inches closer to revealing 2030 climate target

NEWS: “Tough” policy option could see Russia’s 2030 carbon emissions stabilise at around today’s levels

(Pic: Flickr/Pavel-KoraxDC-Kazachkov)

(Pic: Flickr/Pavel-KoraxDC-Kazachkov)

By Olga Dobrovidova in Moscow

The Center for Energy Efficiency, an influential Russian think tank working with energy issues, has unveiled its take on possible emissions scenarios for the country up to 2030 and 2050, featuring what could be an accurate guess for Russia’s commitment under the new global agreement.

At a press conference in Moscow on Friday, leading CENEf researcher Igor Bashmakov presented the results of a major study conducted by multiple independent but coordinated groups which altogether explored 30 scenarios for Russia’s economic development in the next four decades.

The researchers analysed possible primary energy use and CO2 emissions trajectories as well as potential costs and benefits of a large-scale decarbonisation of the Russian economy.

The report gives two possible options for a a 2030 target, both given as average annual levels of emissions in 2020-2030. The “mild” option sees Russia’s emissions stabilize at their prospective 2020 level, or 25% below 1990, and the second “tough” option puts the plank slightly lower, at 30% below 1990.

To put this in context, according to official UN data, in 2011 Russia’s emissions were some 31% below 1990, so it seems that for the next two decades, our emissions will, at best, average around today’s levels.

It’s hard to translate any of the options into ‘point’ targets that would give a specific number for 2030, says Bashmakov, mostly because of the uncertainty around the peak of Russia’s emissions.

“The relative reduction in 2030 compared to 1990 will depend on whether we come to that year “from above” [after emissions have peaked] or “from below” [with growth after a bigger dip in emissions], he said at the press conference.

Unknown ambition

This peak will definitely happen before 2060, which is a somewhat unexpected extension compared to MED’s earlier estimates putting it firmly in the 2030s.

And under no realistic set of assumptions will it ever exceed 90% of the 1990 emissions level – but the ultimate shape of the Russian emissions curve remains one of the unknowns.

According to Bashmakov, neither of the two presented scenarios impedes economic growth, and both require extra measures to be added to the Russian climate and energy policy basket.

These include various energy efficiency measures, investment in low-carbon energy sources such as nuclear power and renewables, and ultimately a price on carbon, which, under some scenarios, reaches $100 for a ton of CO2 in 2050.

In this longer term, milder targets imply, once again, stabilization at 2020 levels, but these “can be underachieved only with no new policy measures whatsoever or improbably high economic growth”.

More ambitious goals are set at either a 50% reduction by 2050 or average annual emissions over that period at 67% of the 1990 levels.

Estimates of a potential impact of this scenario on GDP vary rather significantly, from +4% to -9%, and deeper reductions, for instance, to 80% below 1990, can cost Russia more than 10% of its GDP.

These are in no way official estimates, and Russia’s climate envoy Alexander Bedritsky failed to make a planned appearance at the briefing, but CENEf is widely considered as the primary source of expert inputs into climate change decision making.

The government was represented solely by Oleg Pluzhnikov, a Ministry of Economic development official, who praised CENEf’s work as very useful.

Pluzhnikov’s ministry drafted the recent climate action plan and is due to present a similar scenario note in October this year, and Bedritsky earlier claimed that Russia may present its new 2030 target at the Lima conference in December.

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