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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.