Russia is the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world after China, the U.S. and India  contributing around 4.6% of all global emissions. Moreover, its per capita emissions are among the highest in the world - 53% higher than China and 79% higher than the EU, though 25% lower than the U.S.

The vast majority of Russia’s greenhouse gases are emitted by the energy industry (78.9%). Nearly half of these emissions come from the production of electricity and heat for the general population, while the rest largely come from the production of solid fuels, petroleum refining and fuels used in transportation. Russia’s industrial production accounts for a further 10.8% of total greenhouse gas emissions - with metals production accounting for most. Agriculture makes up another 5.9% of total emissions and waste 4.4%.

The Russian economy is dependent on fossil fuels, which accounted for around two-thirds of all Russian exports in 2019. Moreover, Russian companies feature prominently among fossil fuel companies that have emitted the most greenhouse gases in recent decades. Russia’s  gas giant Gazprom has been the world’s third-largest emitter since 1988 (after the Chinese coal industry and Saudi Arabia’s Aramco). Russia’s coal industry, Lukoil, Rosneft, Surgutneftgas, Tatneft and Novatek also all feature in the world’s top 100 biggest emitters.

Compounding Russia’s emission problem is its recent ramping up of coal production, which has increased by more than 30% over the past decade. Investments in the industry have surged, with several new coal ports under construction, including in the sensitive Arctic region. While Russia is projected to replace much of its coal use with natural gas in the coming years - leaving a smaller carbon footprint- it is far from sustainable energy use, with projections that only 4% of the energy mix will come from renewable sources by 2035.

Overall, statements by the government about climate change have been mixed. The Environment Ministry has for years consistently warned that Russia is being disproportionately affected by climate change, and expressed 95% confidence that human activity had contributed to global warming. It has warned of apocalyptic consequences including epidemics, droughts, mass hunger, water emergencies, forest fires, flash floods and melting permafrost. Economic losses related to the melting permafrost are projected to range between 50 billion and 150 billion rubles ($2.3 billion) a year.

Russia’s Audit Chamber has said climate change could knock 2-3% off Russia’s GDP by 2030.

Russian National Plan for Adaptation

Russia has published a national plan (The National Action Plan for the First Phase of Adaptation to Climate Change for the Period up to 2022 ) to adapt its economy and society to climate change. The document outlines the measures to be taken by federal and regional authorities to reduce the vulnerability of the population, economy and natural environment to the impacts of climate change. Moreover, it defines a number of possible opportunities arising from climate change.

The national plan starts with a call of warning. The Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring reports that the average annual temperature in Russia is rising 2.5 times faster than the global average.

Climate change is expected to have severe consequences for Russia. These include increased risks to health, ecological disbalance, the spread of infectious diseases, and an increase in electricity consumption due to air conditioning. Russia will likely experience more intense and frequent droughts, precipitation, floods, fires, and the degradation of permafrost in the North.

However, the document also highlights the possible benefits of climate change. These are expected to include a reduction in energy consumption for heating, an expansion in crop and livestock production, and an increase in the productivity of boreal forests.

Regarding the Far North,  possible positive consequences of the expected climate changes for the Russian Federation include improving the ice situation and consequently the conditions for the transportation of goods in the Arctic seas [and] facilitating access to the continental shelf of the Russian Federation in the Arctic Ocean.

The first seven pages of the document outline the planning, implementation and evaluation of a climate change adaptation plan. The government pledges its support by offering scientific assistance and expects to take responsibility for the security of people impacted by the consequences of climate change. Russia only officially ratified the Paris agreement in October 2019. The new plan reiterates Russia’s obligation to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and other international treaties.

The following ten pages make up an appendix of the Russian government’s planned support processes to implement the national plan for climate change adaptation. In a list of 30 measures, the government delegates organizational, scientific and legal tasks to various ministries and bodies of the state. The steps are design to reduce Russia’s vulnerability to the threat of climate change. These measures include upgrading the national climate monitoring system, preparing assessments of the impacts of climate change and developing adaptation strategies for specific sectors (such as the energy, transport and agriculture industries).

The Ministry of Education and Science is tasked with including educational material about climate change and adaptation in schools and professional education centers. The government also plans to calculate the risk of Russian goods becoming uncompetitive if they are unable to meet climate-related standards.

The Far North is separately addressed . By the third quarter of 2021, the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East and Arctic, the Ministry of Economic Development and other Ministries are responsible for presenting a formulated system of operative measures for the adaptation to climate change in the Arctic.

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