According to experts, climate change is occurring in Russia much faster than globally on average. This might potentially have a significant impact on the country’s energy sector. What is the Kremlin doing to address the issue? Find out in the new RD report.

Smoke rises from chimneys of a factory during sunset in the Siberian town of Achinsk, 180 km (112 miles) west of Krasnoyarsk, Feb. 5, 2007. Photo: Reuters

Nov. 30 saw the opening of the 21st session of the World Climate Change Conference in Paris, France. With 150 world leaders participating, the summit is expected to result in the signing of a new globally binding agreement aimed at significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions and coming up with a new global framework for solutions to climate change that will keep the warming of the planet’s average surface temperature at less than 2 degrees Celsius, which is the benchmark above which global warming will cause disastrous consequences.

Russia is one of the key players in negotiating the deal. On Nov. 30, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke during the opening of the conference in Paris and revealed the Kremlin’s efforts in fighting global warming. “We have gone beyond the target fixed by the Kyoto Protocol for the period from 1991 to 2012. Russia not only prevented the growth of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but also significantly reduced it,” Putin said. Promising to reduce emissions by 70 percent by 2030, the Russian leader also said that Russia is planning to progress by bringing breakthrough technologies into practice.

To what extent do these plans have real potential to be realized? Will Russia be successful in tackling the climate change issue within its own borders?

Experts answer these questions in the new Russia Direct report, “Global Warming: Russia Comes in from the Cold.” By examining Moscow’s environmental policies and comparing them with those of other states, authors offer their take on the prospects and challenges in tackling climate change in Russia.

First, George Safonov, director of the Center for Environmental and Natural Resource Economics at the National Research University Higher School of Economics, discusses how the climate has changed in Russia over the years and what the Kremlin’s current policies are. He also takes a look at different scenarios depending on what course of action the authorities take to address the problem of greenhouse gas emissions. Following from his analysis, he concludes that Russia has a lot of potential in moving towards more “climate friendly” development.

The expectations and challenges facing the Paris Climate Change Conference are discussed further in the report by Woodrow W. Clark II and Dimitri Elkin, who are well-known analysts in the field of climate policies and renewable energy practices. Reviewing what has changed in the positions on climate change among the major global economies, including the U.S., EU, China, Japan, India and Russia, they suggest how the leadership in Kremlin could make the best of its political environment and promote more “green” policies domestically.

“Russia, unlike the U.S., can move ahead with new, safe, and environmentally friendly technologies that can be created and proven in its academic institutions and then commercialized in the nearby science parks,” the experts point out.

The report also features a comment on the issue of global warming from Grigory Zasypkin, official representative of the Russian Embassy to the U.S. He explains why Russia is quite positive about the way the global climate change campaign is going and points out the extent to which Russia is ready to contribute to the process.

What is more, the report contains an interview with head of WWF Russia’s climate and energy program, Alexey Kokorin, who shares his take on the state of the climate change movement in Russia and explains his optimism with regard to the growing public perception of the problem. With the inevitability of new natural disasters, the people will grow more aware of the problem. “An incentive to recognize this problem in the U.S. was the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina and flooding in New Orleans. In Russia it was the terrible heat wave of 2010 in Moscow and Central Russia,” he argues.

Addressing the problem of global warming requires increasing the share of renewable energy resources on the world energy market. In Russia, there is still much potential to be discovered in this field, argues Ivan Kapitonov, senior fellow at the Energy Policy Sector of the Institute of Economics of the Russian Academy of Sciences. There are already successful examples of using renewables in remote regions of the country (such as the Far East, Altai and Crimea), but challenges concerned with using these practices still exist.

What are the prospects of greenhouse gas emissions reduction in Russia? Which countries are the largest polluters on the planet? What regions in Russia have the most potential to generate “green power”? Download the report and find out.