Russia’s Climate Goals: The Burden of Cheap Energy


Status: 02.11.2021 3:19 p.m.

Russian President Putin is absent from the climate summit in Glasgow. First his country will strive for CO2 neutrality, he said recently. For environmentalists this is going far too slowly. But wealth, of all things, slows down the necessary change.

By Stephan Laack, ARD Studio Moscow

For a long time, Russian President Vladimir Putin did not want to commit to certain climate targets. A few weeks ago he named a specific date: By “2060 at the latest” Russia is aiming for its economy to be CO2-neutral.

Putin had previously warned that the climate policy of many Western countries with drastic measures and unbalanced decisions was leading to hysteria in Europe’s energy markets. There has to be a smooth transition to climate-friendly energies.

The “climate agenda should not become an instrument to promote the economic and political interests of individual countries,” said Putin. Rather, one must jointly “create understandable, fair and transparent rules for climate regulation that work on a global level”.

The UN is calling for more speed

According to an alarming UN report from last week, however, states would have to increase their climate protection efforts sevenfold in order to achieve the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees, as set out in the Paris Agreement.

And Russia is already particularly badly affected by the consequences of global warming, as Vasily Yablokov from Greenpeace Russia explains. “The warming is progressing much faster here than in the rest of the world: 2.8 times as fast.”

The disasters come faster and faster

The thawing of the permafrost in the arctic regions of Russia, catastrophic fires in Siberia or floods: the intervals between the disasters are getting shorter and shorter, the damage increasing.

In order to take countermeasures quickly, one has to start with the energy sector, says Greenpeace expert Jablokow. Above all, the poor energy efficiency is a big problem. Thermal insulation or thermostats on heating systems: nonexistent. Then there are ailing gas pipes and inefficient gas extraction

We heat the streets, we lose energy in the networks. Emissions could already be reduced significantly if we increase the efficiency of our energy sector.

There is a lack of political will

But apparently there is a lack of political will to do so, even if huge sums of money are lost. Just recently, a leak in a pipe in Nizhny Novgorod released 164 tons of methane per hour. According to experts, as many climate-damaging emissions have been released as 8,000 cars cause in a year.

According to a current forecast by the foreign trade bank VEB, modernizations in the construction and gas processing sectors, for example, could reduce CO2 emissions by 200 million tons annually. This could save the equivalent of 13.5 billion euros by 2050.

The thawing permafrost also endangers houses like in Yakutsk – at the same time the country is losing too much energy to ailing power lines.

Image: AFP

No incentive for modernization

Vitaly Kazakov, director of the Energy Economics program at the Russian Business School in Moscow, says there is no economic incentive to carry out large-scale modernizations. Energy is much cheaper in Russia than abroad. Therefore, modern technologies would not make sense from the consumer point of view. It is only when the energy price rises that energy efficiency solutions really pay off.

And finally, the promotion of fossil fuels such as oil and gas is of essential importance for the Russian budget. He determines more than half of the income. Nobody will give up this sector “for any short-lived reasons”.

Russia does not want to become climate neutral until 2060

Stephan Laack, WDR, October 28, 2021 4:23 p.m.


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