Russia banks on CO2 absorption
Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development has produced a draft for a national low-carbon strategy extending to 2050.

    The main development scenario has no provision for the country to achieve carbon neutrality or the introduction of a payment system for carbon dioxide emissions as has been done by more and more countries. But the government nonetheless believes that Russia will be able to absorb more greenhouse gases than it emits into the atmosphere.

    Faster warming

    As noted in the draft, the climate throughout Russia’s territory is warming 2.5 times more quickly than the average throughout the world. Average annual temperatures are rising throughout the country, but particularly quickly on the shores of the Arctic Ocean.

    And over the past 10 to 20 years, the number of incidents of dangerous natural phenomena has risen significantly – about 1,000 occur every year and nearly half of them are responsible for considerable damage.

    The inertial or base scenario

    The government is considering four scenarios of development in the situation.

    The inertial scenario, which assumes maintaining the rate of CO2 absorption and provides for the current government programme involving funds of 1 % of GDP. Net emissions of greenhouse gases, according to this, will exceed the same indicator applicable to the European Union from 2021-2050 and will not achieve the goal of reducing net emissions of harmful gases.

    Thermal power stations will provide 57-61 % of power generation, with non-carbon generation accounting for about 40 %. This assumes the addition of about 140 GW of new low-carbon generating capacity, using nuclear power, hydropower and renewable sources as a base. In accordance with this scenario, Russia by 2030 will be producing from 2 to 12 million tonnes of hydrogen per year and by 2050 15-50 million tonnes.

    This base scenario, which the Ministry of Economic Development sees as its main proposal, calls for additional measures to reduce the carbon content of the economy. Russia will not achieve carbon neutrality, but can lower its net emissions of greenhouse gases – to 1.19 billion tonnes by 2050. Based on this calculation, the emissions themselves amount to 2.29 billion tonnes. Last year, emissions totalled 2.12 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent and with due account of absorption totalled 1.58 billion tonnes.

    The government is therefore relying on absorption of emissions on the basis of a more than twofold increase in the absorption of greenhouse gases in land management and forestry. That should provide for absorption of more than 1 billion tonnes.

    “The base scenario provides for lower figures for Russia by 2050 of accumulated net greenhouse gas emissions in comparison with the European Union, but will not allow for carbon neutrality to be achieved over the entire period of the strategy’s application,” the draft said.

    Under this scenario, a market will appear in Russia for trading and establishing a value of carbon units issued as a result of the implementation of voluntary climate projects. In certain regions, a system of emission quotas will be introduced as an experiment.

    This scenario assumes an increase in consumption of power in Russia up to 1.48 billion KWh by 2050. And power generation will be based on thermal power (53 % by 2050), nuclear power (24 %) and hydropower (17 %).  Plans call for the introduction of new capacity, primarily sources of non-carbon generation.

    Achieving carbon neutrality

    The intensive scenario calls for a reduction in emissions and an increase in absorption of greenhouse gases based on mass investment in decarbonising the economy, particularly in the fuel and energy complex and in communal services.

    In this case, there could be obligatory payment for emissions in a series of carbon-intensive sectors, as well as considerable change in the structure of power generation.

   Proposals call for coal and gas-fired stations to be replaced by zero-carbon energy sources, with the total production from nuclear, hydropower and renewable sources totalling about 73 % by 2050. By 2050, a total 280 GW of new generating capacity will have to be brought on stream – nearly half of which will be based on solar power.   

    This scenario will enable Russia to become carbon-neutral by 2060.

    In turn, the aggressive scenario calls for achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 based on “carrying out the potential we have to increase absorption capacity of natural ecosystems – estimated at 2-2.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year”.

    By contrast, under the inertial scenario, net emissions of greenhouse gases from 2021-2050 will exceed EU indicators for the same period. This scenario is based on Implementing decisions already adopted and the development of absorption of CO2 through ecosystems will be maintained.   


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September 2021