Exclusive: Russian climate envoy calls race to tighten emissions targets "unreasonable"


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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Steam rises from chimneys on a cold day in Moscow, Russia, January 18, 2021. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov/File Photo

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By Tom Balmforth

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s climate envoy described a recent global trend towards ambitious new targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as an “unreasonable race”, saying Moscow would focus on the commitments it has made so far.

In written responses to questions from Reuters, Ruslan Edelgeriyev also criticised proposals by the European Union to impose carbon taxes on imports, which he characterised as unfairly benefiting a small number of countries.

“Setting new targets every year for a few percent of additional emissions reductions not only raises questions about feasibility, but also pushes the whole world into an unreasonable race for numbers, diverting attention from the need for concrete results,” Edelgeriyev said.

    “We adhere to all our commitments and advocate for maintaining this fragile consensus.”

Russia, the world’s biggest exporter of and number two exporter of oil, joined the Paris climate change pact in 2019, which commits countries to setting targets every five years to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The latest new targets were due to be announced last year, but that has been put off until later this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scientists say the world needs to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050 to meet the agreement’s aim of keeping temperatures within 2 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels.

Russia’s self-imposed target, reiterated last year by President Vladimir Putin, is for its emissions in 2030 to be 30% lower than in 1990. It has long been on course to exceed that goal easily, due to the massive de-industrialisation that followed the fall of the Soviet Union.

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NO NEW TARGET

The world’s biggest emitter China unveiled a tightened target last year, and new U.S. President Joe Biden announced a tighter target this year. Biden hosted a virtual summit last month at which several other countries also announced tougher targets. Putin attended but had no new target to announce.

Despite a history of past remarks suggesting scepticism that human activity was responsible for warming the planet, Putin has lately spoken about climate change as a priority. He has said Russia’s territory is warming at 2.5 times the world average, and said last month Russia would aim to emit less total carbon over the next 30 years than the EU, which has three times as many people.

Still, in international forums, Russia has so far tended to oppose measures that might reduce demand for its energy exports. Edelgeriyev said Russia was “very concerned” by EU proposals for a mechanism to levy a carbon tax at its borders.

“Clearly we are talking about a global transformation of the world economy,” he said. Such a tax could be implemented “to the benefit of strictly limited countries,” he said. “There’s no inclusivity.”

He also said Russia disagrees with environmental opposition to its Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would double its natural gas export capacity under the Baltic Sea to Germany. Germany’s Greens, forecast to perform well in a September election, have campaigned to halt it.

    Edelgeriyev said the pipeline would help the environment, as generating power from natural gas emits less carbon than coal, and the pipeline could perhaps one day carry hydrogen.

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