Russia changes its tune on climate change. What’s behind the shift?

Russia is a place where industrial-extent fossil fuel energy is traditionally so abundant that city dwellers in centrally heated apartments nevertheless sometimes throw their windows open in midwinter to cool off.

So the Kremlin’s pledges at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, including a strategy to make Russia carbon neutral by 2060, are unheard of. already some of the Kremlin’s toughest critics now agree that Russian authorities have finally accepted the need for serious action to meet the climate challenge.

Why We Wrote This

Russia showed signs at COP26 that it is finally getting serious about the threat of climate change. But the Kremlin’s shift in thought may need to go further to prepare the country for the future.

But critics point out that, while the progress is real, there is a lot less to Russia’s new pledges than meets the eye. already if all current goals are met, replaceable energy will only be around 6% of Russia’s total by 2035, while European targets call for it to be at the minimum 20% by that time. And Russia’s potential of carbon neutrality by 2060 relies on the carbon-absorbing capacities of Russian forests and not on reforming the country’s strength grid.

“The Russian government is sincere, but they nevertheless do not plan to meet climate neutrality targets by changing the energy balance,” says researcher Tatiana Lanshina. “A lot of things are going to have to change, because the world is changing whether we like it or not.”

Moscow

Solar panels have begun to sprout among Russia’s many dachas, the often far away and humble cottages where millions use their summers. Thanks to new laws, meaningful state sustain for replaceable energy, and a higher level of public climate consciousness, the different-energy industry is finally poised to take off among notoriously hydrocarbon-addicted Russians.

This may not sound exceptional to those in the West, where small-extent replaceable energy has been a going concern for decades.

But Russia is a place where industrial-extent fossil fuel energy is traditionally so abundant and cheap that city dwellers in centrally heated apartments nevertheless sometimes throw their windows open in midwinter just to cool off. The country only got around to ratifying the Paris climate accords two years ago, and President Vladimir Putin once remarked that a bit of warming would be good for the wheat crop.

Why We Wrote This

Russia showed signs at COP26 that it is finally getting serious about the threat of climate change. But the Kremlin’s shift in thought may need to go further to prepare the country for the future.

The embrace of solar strength among dacha owners is just part of a broader shift in thinking about climate change and different energy across Russian society. already some of the Kremlin’s toughest critics now agree that Russian authorities have finally accepted the need for serious action to meet the climate challenge. Though Mr. Putin was criticized for not attending the Glasgow COP26 climate summit in person, the Russian delegation did make some substantial, unheard of pledges, including a legally enacted strategy to make Russia carbon neutral by 2060, and joining the international agreement to end deforestation by 2030.

But while the Kremlin is getting active on climate change, environmentalists say authorities are not doing enough to prepare Russia for the world that is coming. Though the government is taking positive steps, they say, it is not addressing the changes that Russia’s strength grid and carbon-dependent economy will require in order to keep up with more proactively green parts of the world like Europe.

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