Round-table “Greenhouse effect for economy: a year after the Paris Agreement” took place in the press-centre of the Russian news agency TASS

December 15, 2016

Round-table “Greenhouse effect for economy: a year after the Paris Agreement” took place in the press-centre of the Russian news agency TASS

On December 14th the Round-table “Greenhouse effect for economy: a year after the Paris Agreement” took place in the press-centre of the Russian news agency TASS.

The Paris Agreement on climate change, which is set out to replace the Kyoto Protocol, came into force on November 4, 2016. Yet, in spite the fact that Russia has signed the agreement, its stance remains unclear, because it has not ratified the agreement yet. The Round-table was aimed at analysing the role of the Paris Agreement for Russia and discussing socio-economic implications of its ratification. The event was attended by representatives of government, private sector and academic institutions, as well as experts from the UNIDO. The discussion was moderated by the senior partner of McKinsey&Company Stepan Solzhenitsin.

The round-table consisted of two sessions. The first session focused on the issue of ratification of the Paris Agreement by Russia. In particular, the participants discussed scenarios of its ratification, risks and opportunities related to it, as well as scenarios for the development of energy mix in Russia. Two opposite opinions emerged in regard to the matter. On the one hand, the ratification of the Paris Agreement appears to be a logical step following its signing and promises more opportunities than risks; this appears especially relevant when taking into account the fact that the agreement does not contain any mandatory measures, but rather only sets common goals and calls upon its parties to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. On the contrary, failing to ratify the agreement may severely damage the political image of Russia within international context and deprive it of voting power in climate negotiations, thinks Larisa Korepanova, Deputy-director of the department of state policy and regulation of water resources of the Ministry of natural resources and ecology oа Russia. On the other hand, the Paris Agreement, which clauses have a rather general formulation, may become “a pig in a poke”, as it aptly pointed out Sergey Roginko, head of the Centre of ecology and development of the Europe Institute of the Russian Academy of Science. By ratifying the agreement, Russia may later confront the risk that mandatory national quotas for carbon emissions and/or a mandatory carbon tax will be introduced, which will result in additional economic costs for Russia. Thus Russia shall first comprehensively analyse potential consequences of the ratification of the Paris Agreement.

As far as scenarios of the development of the energy mix in Russia in the mid- and long term, most participants agreed that Russia shall move towards low-carbon development path. The transition to low-carbon economy will take at least 10-15 years and will certainly bear social and economic costs. Nevertheless, Russia shall take into considerations global trends, in particular gradual transition of a number of growing economies to low-carbon development and as a consequence decreasing demand for Russian coil and oil export. As Alexey Kokorin, head of the Climate and Energy programme of the WWF Russia, noted, the likelihood that by 2030 coil will be abandoned as “world fuel” is quite high; this may result in the end of the monopoly of coal exporting countries including Russia. Thus, Russia shall focus its effort on changing its energy mix in favour of cleaner sources of energy and on reducing its emissions of greenhouse gases, also by increasing energy efficiency of its economy.

During the second session, the participants discussed key challenges and prospects of boosting energy efficiency of the Russian economy, of sustainable forest exploitation in regard to carbon emissions. According to the Ministry of economic development of Russia, scenarios for carbon emissions reduction developed by the Ministry 70% of proposed measures are those related to energy efficiency. Most of those measures are quite cost-efficient requiring no or only insignificant additional investment. Yet, as Sergey Sivaev, senior director of the JSC “Federal Centre of project funding”, pointed out, many industrial as well as public institutions often opt not to introduce any measures of energy-efficient management, as it appears too complex and difficult to implement. In addition, Russia still lacks an institutional mechanism which would stimulate efforts to cut carbon emissions and introduce energy-efficiency measures. A law on the system of monitoring and reporting on greenhouse gas emissions, which is currently being drafted, could become a first building block of such mechanism.

In the conclusion of the round-table, the participants expressed their hopes that Russia will eventually take the right decision in regard to the ratification of the Paris Agreement and will find a development scenario most corresponding to its socio-economic context.