After four years of deliberation, Russia has finally signed the Paris Agreement. On Monday, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev gave formal support for the agreement and ordered that Russia’s laws adapt to fit its regulations.
A new brand for Russia
Hours after signing the decree, PM Medvedev brought the news to a government meeting. There, he outlined a new climate strategy for Russia.
“The threat of climate change is (the) destruction of the ecological balance, increased risks for successful development of key industries… and most importantly, threat to safety of people living on permafrost and increase of natural disasters,” Medvedev said.
Indeed, by joining the accord, Russia has taken a long overdue stance on climate control. As the fourth largest global emitter of greenhouse gases, Russia’s entrance into the agreement can serve as a call to action for other countries not yet committed.
Notably, Russia has chosen to join the accord merely weeks before US President Donald Trump plans to withdraw from it in November.
Does Russia even want the Paris Agreement
Yet despite the seemingly good news, Russia’s decision to join the agreement may have had an ulterior motive.
The decision came just hours before the UN Climate Action Summit in New York. At the summit, Putin’s climate adviser, Ruslan Edelgeriev, broke the news. “The Russian Federation has accepted the Paris Agreement and is becoming a full-fledged participant of this international instrument,” he said.
Russia may be attempting to gain more international support. Its decision to ratify came at a good time, as belief in the accord’s effectiveness is at an all-time low. By finally ratifying, Russia has boosted morale for international climate cooperation.
In an attempt to further garner support for Russian environmental efforts, Edelgeriev explained his country’s progress. “Our total emissions [since 1990] have decreased almost by half. This represent 41 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent which on the planetary scale has allowed to cumulatively hold global warming for an entire year.”
Edelgeriev also mentioned that Russia plans to create a law on emissions by 2020.
This may all be for show
Joining the Paris Agreement means very little for Russia, whose current carbon targets are laughable.
Since the Paris Agreement allows countries to develop their own, non-binding targets for reducing CO2 emissions, Russia chose a very weak target. By 2030, Russia pledges to reduce its emissions to 25-30% less than its emission rates in 1990.
But due to the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia’s industries have severely slowed down. So, in 2017, Russia actually polluted 32% less than it did in 1990. Meaning Russia is already below its target.
In other words, Russia can actually increase its pollution while still staying within its target.
Noticing this furtive maneuver, the NGO Climate Action Tracker declared Russia’s targets “critically insufficient.” According to them, if every country followed Russia’s emission rules, global warming could increase 4 degrees.
To make matters worse, Russia is actually increasing coal production and opening new gas and oil plants.
So if Russia seriously wants change, it will need to reevaluate its climate plan.