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Ambition gap

What is Russiaʼs pathway to limit global warming to 1.5°C?

1.5°C compatible pathways

A 2020 update of Russia’s 2030 emissions target from a 25-30% reduction below 1990 levels to a 30% reduction below 1990 levels did not represent an actual increase in ambition, and is far from what would be needed to ensure Russia is aligned with the 1.5°C temperature limit of the Paris Agreement.1 Russia’s own emissions projections show they will be below its updated 30% target in 2030, implying there is considerable scope for Russia to increase the strength of its target.2 A 1.5°C compatible 2030 target for Russia would be at least a 65% reduction below 1990 levels excluding emissions from the LULUCF sector.

In 2021, the government formally approved a watered down piece of climate legislation that would have established an emissions cap-and-trade system for major emitters by 2025, required companies to report their emissions and allowed the government to introduce GHG emission targets and charge companies for excess emissions.14 Of these measures, only the requirement for companies to report their emissions was legislated. Amending this legislation to set emissions limits in line with a 1.5°C compatible pathway is one way Russia could raise its 2030 ambition.

Long term pathway

Russia’s recently approved long-term climate strategy targets an 80% reduction in GHG emissions below 1990 levels by 2050.3 A 2060 net zero GHG emissions target was also included in this strategy.

These targets stand in contrast with 1.5°C compatible mitigation pathways for Russia, which show a reduction in total GHG emissions of at least 90% by 2050 below 1990 levels or not higher than 321 MtCO₂e/yr, when excluding emissions from the land and forestry sector.20 To reach net zero GHG emissions, Russia will need to balance its remaining emissions with a sink of at least 321 MtCO₂e/yr by 2050.21 With its current land sink Russia is well positioned to be able to balance these emissions without relying on the development of carbon dioxide removal technologies.

The size of Russia’s LULUCF sink is projected to more than double between 2030 and 2050, reaching 1200 MtCO₂e.3 This figure, however, was produced after an announcement by the Russian government that it would fundamentally change the way forestry emissions are accounted for, by designating forests previously categorised as unmanaged, as managed. Such accounting method would practically violate IPCC reporting guidelines.16 This will greatly increase levels of negative emissions included in Russia’s GHG inventory, through nothing more than an accounting change. Such an action calls into question the viability of achieving the steep projected increase in negative emissions to 2050.


2 Russian Federation. Russian Federation Fourth Biennial Report. (2019).

3 Russian Federation. Strategy for the Socio – Economic Development of Russia with Low Greenhouse Gas Emissions until 2050. (2021).

4 IPCC. 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories, Chapter 6: Wastewater Treatment and Discharge. (2006).

5 Russian Federation. Russia Energy Strategy 2035. (2020).

6 Government of Russia. Russian Federation 2021 Common Reporting Format (CRF) Table. (2021).

7 IEA. World Energy Outlook 2016. (2016) doi:10.1787/weo-2016-en.

8 IEA. World Energy Outlook 2020. (2020).

9 Climate Transparency. Russia – Climate Transparency Report. (2020).

10 Vavina, E. Russia will allocate 725 billion rubles for the development of renewable energy by 2050. Vedomosti. (2019).

11 Climate Action Tracker. CAT Climate Action Update Tracker: Russian Federation. (2021).

12 IRENA. Remap 2030: Renewable Energy Prospects for the Russian Federation. A Renewable Energy Prospects for Ukraine (2017).

13 Russian Railways. Strategy for the Development of Rail Transport in the Russian Federation up to 2030. (2008).

14 The Moscow Times. Russia Rejects Climate Change Plan After Business Uproar. The Moscow Times. (2019).

15 IEA. World Energy Balances 2021. (International Energy Agency, 2021).

16 Davydova, A. Business is decarbonizing on paper and in corporate reports. Kommersant (2021)..

17 Russian Federation. Russian Draft Energy Efficiency Action Plan 2020. (2020).

18 Climate Transparency. Russia – Climate Transparency Report. (2021).

19 Stolyarov, G. Moscow, capital of oil-rich Russia, targets electric car growth. Reuters (2021).

20 While global cost-effective pathways assessed by the IPCC Special Report 1.5°C provide useful guidance for an upper-limit of emissions trajectories for developed countries, they underestimate the feasible space for such countries to reach net zero earlier. The current generation of models tend to depend strongly on land-use sinks outside of currently developed countries and include fossil fuel use well beyond the time at which these could be phased out, compared to what is understood from bottom-up approaches. The scientific teams which provide these global pathways constantly improve the technologies represented in their models – and novel CDR technologies are now being included in new studies focused on deep mitigation scenarios meeting the Paris Agreement. A wide assessment database of these new scenarios is not yet available; thus, we rely on available scenarios which focus particularly on BECCS as a net-negative emission technology. Accordingly, we do not yet consider land-sector emissions (LULUCF) and other CDR approaches which developed countries will need to implement in order to counterbalance their remaining emissions and reach net zero GHG are not considered here due to data availability.

21 Some pathways include sinks based on bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), thus this is a conservative estimate.

22 Some pathways include sinks based on bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).


Russiaʼs total GHG emissions

excl. LULUCF MtCO₂e/yr

Displayed values
Reference year
Net zero GHG excl. LULUCF*
Reference year
1.5°C emissions level
Ambition gap
  • 1.5°C compatible pathways
  • Middle of the 1.5°C compatible range
  • Current policy projections
  • 1.5°C emissions range
  • Historical emissions
2030 emissions levels
Current policy projections
1.5°C emissions level
Ref. year 1990
3 159MtCO₂e/yr

Energy system transformation

Russia’s energy system is heavily skewed towards fossil fuel sources, which made up 89% of primary energy demand in 2020.15 Coal and oil as a proportion of primary energy demand in 2020 is roughly equal to 2010 levels. Total natural gas demand has also increased over this time. Renewables as a share of primary energy meanwhile, has remained constant over this same period.

In 1.5°C compatible pathways, Russia’s share of fossil fuels in primary energy demand is between 66-77% by 2030. Unabated fossil fuels in the power sector would need to fall from its 2020 level of 60% to reach between 6-21% by 2030. Recent rises in demand for all fossil fuels, especially coal, must begin to decline as soon as possible if Russia is to have any chance of forging a 1.5°C aligned energy system transformation.


Russiaʼs primary energy mix

petajoule per year

SSP1 Low CDR reliance
201920302040205020 00030 000
SSP1 High CDR reliance
201920302040205020 00030 000
Low Energy Demand
201920302040205020 00030 000
High Energy Demand - Low CDR reliance
201920302040205020 00030 000
  • Negative emissions technologies via BECCS
  • Unabated fossil
  • Renewables incl. Biomass
  • Nuclear and/or fossil with CCS

Russiaʼs total CO₂ emissions

excl. LULUCF MtCO₂/yr

05001 0001 5002 0002 50019902010203020502070
  • 1.5°C compatible pathways
  • 1.5°C emissions range
  • Middle of the 1.5°C compatible range
  • Historical emissions

1.5°C compatible emissions benchmarks

Key emissions benchmarks of Paris compatible Pathways for Russia. The 1.5°C compatible range is based on the Paris Agreement compatible pathways from the IPCC SR1.5 filtered with sustainability criteria. The median (50th percentile) to 5th percentile and middle of the range are provided here. Relative reductions are provided based on the reference year.

Reference year
Reference year
Year of net zero GHG
incl. BECCS excl. LULUCF and novel CDR
Total GHG
Megatonnes CO₂ equivalent per year
3 159
2 119
667 to 1 081
264 to 438
99 to 284
Relative to reference year in %
−79 to −66%
−92 to −86%
−97 to −91%
Total CO₂
2 523
1 683
481 to 905
22 to 345
10 to 170
Relative to reference year in %
−81 to −64%
−99 to −86%
−100 to −93%