Russia offers climate goal with no real bite

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia plans to release 30 percent more greenhouse gases by 2020 under an emissions target scheme announced on Friday by President Dmitry Medvedev.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev chairs a meeting of the Government Commission on Economic Modernization and Technological Development at "Kaspersky Laboratories" developing center in Moscow, June 18, 2009. REUTERS/Misha Japaridze/Pool

The plan would reduce emissions by 10-15 percent from Russia’s emissions in 1990 when it was part of the Soviet Union and its emissions were far higher than they are today.

This angered environmentalists, and the target also is likely to fall short of expectations from developing countries.

“It’s not enough, it’s very low,” said Alexey Kokorin, the Russia spokesman for environmental protection group WWF.

Medvedev’s announcement was interpreted as an opening shot in United Nations negotiations meant to seal a new climate treaty in December to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

Under those talks, rich nations are meant to propose mid-term emissions targets. Russia is the last major country to do so.

Green groups and developing countries want industrialized countries to trim their emissions by 25-40 percent below 1990 levels, referring to a range of cuts suggested by a U.N. panel of climate scientists.

“Based on the current situation by 2020 we could cut emissions by about 10-15 percent,” Medvedev told Russian state television, according to a copy of his comments supplied by the Kremlin.

Arkady Dvorkovich, the Kremlin’s chief economic adviser, later clarified to Interfax news agency that the reduction would be from 1990 levels, before the Soviet Union fell and Russia’s heavy industry collapsed.

Since then, its carbon emissions have returned to an upward curve along with its industrial revival, preserving Russia’s place as the world’s third largest polluter behind China and the United States.

The target laid out on Friday meant cumulative cuts of 30 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases from 1990 to 2020, Medvedev said.

This implies Russia will emit about 3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas in 2020 compared with 2.2 billion tonnes in 2007.

“We will not cut off our development potential,” Medvedev said.

Under Kyoto, Russia has to return its emissions to 1990 levels by 2008-12. Green groups and developing countries were disappointed last week by Japan’s proposals for a 2020 target barely stiffer than its Kyoto Protocol goal, and were again downbeat on Friday after Russia’s announcement.


Medvedev said Russia would take a responsible approach to greenhouse gas emissions but expected other countries to follow suit.

“We expect our partners to take reciprocal steps. That is why I have said many times -- the problem of climate change has to be addressed by everyone or not at all,” he said.

Dvorkovich later added that Russia must find “the right balance” between addressing climate change and reaching Russia’s goals for economic growth, Interfax reported.

Experts saw the goal laid out on Friday as a first shot in six months of intense talks meant to culminate in a new climate pact in Copenhagen this year.

“It’s a good first step ... but I expect other countries will require bigger reductions from Russia and that will promote further negotiations,” said Nina Korobova, head of the Russian operations of Global Carbon, a clean energy project developer.

“I think Russia can easily go to 20 percent (by 2020) ... even in the most pessimistic situations,” she added.

During the previous presidency of Vladimir Putin, Russia’s top Kyoto officials insisted they would not take on mandatory emissions cuts for fear of hindering the comfort of Russia’s middle class and the development of its industries.

Additional reporting by Michael Szabo and Gerard Wynn; Editing by David Gregorio