Climate change and the environment are areas of tremendous significance both to the EU and Russia.
Both the EU and Russia are Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The Paris Agreement entered into force for both of them (after the EU ratified the agreement in October 2016 and Russia “accepted” it in September 2019). The Paris Agreement is the first-ever universal, legally binding global agreement to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C.
In November 2019, President Putin signed a decree ordering the Government “to ensure by 2030 the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 70 percent compared to the 1990 level”. This became Russia’s “Nationally Determined Contribution” (NDC) as part of the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
In December 2019, Russia adopted a national plan to adapt to climate change until the end of 2022. Moreover, a long-term low carbon development strategy and a law on the limitation of GHG emissions will soon see the light of day. The law will introduce mandatory reporting for the largest emitters of GHG.
With 5% of global greenhouse gases emissions, Russia is the world's fifth largest emitter country after China, the US, the EU and India. The levels of its emissions per capita and emission intensity are high. While it is one of the largest producers of gas, oil and coal, and still has a poor record on energy efficiency, it is also the world's largest forest country. Due to Russia’s location as a neighbour of the EU, its climate policies, beyond a global impact, have also a direct impact on the EU due to the risk of carbon leakage and competition distortion in the trade of energy and goods.
Russia boasts huge areas undisturbed by man and holds over 20% of the Earth's water resources and forests. But while Russia is home to unique natural resources, it also suffers from a number of environmental problems, some a legacy of the Soviet past, some brought about by more recent economic growth, with threats to biodiversity, deforestation and illegal logging, water, air and soil pollution ranking among the most serious ones. Given its geographical closeness, common land and sea borders, many of those issues are of common concern and should be tackled together.
Given long common land and sea borders, interconnected biosystems and shared risks, environmental problems can and should be addressed together. The need for joint action, together with the rest of international community, is even more pronounced in the area of climate change and global warming.
The European Union cooperates with Russia on climate change and environmental issues in the framework of numerous international organisations, conventions and United Nations bodies and agencies. The UNFCCC is one example of international forum where the EU and Russia are collaborating actively in pursuing the global objective of preventing global warming and its catastrophic consequences for the humanity.
Bilaterally, the European Union and Russia have been co-operating on environmental questions since 1995. Over the past two decades, the EU has provided support for numerous projects aimed at improving environmental standards in Russia.
Currently, the EU is channeling its support to the climate and environment action through its on-going partnerships' initiatives – the Cross-Border Cooperation (CBC), the Northern Dimension (ND) and the Strategic partnerships for the implementation of the Paris Agreement (SPIPA).
In Cross-Border Cooperation (CBC) programmes, environment is one of the priority thematic objectives. Seven CBC land-border programmes with participation of Russia (Kolarctic , Karelia , South-East Finland-Russia , Estonia-Russia , Latvia-Russia , Lithuania-Russia and Poland-Russia ) are being implemented. The programmes focus inter alia on modernisation of heating systems in schools and hospitals, modernisation of border crossing points, promoting healthy lifestyle by building recreational centres or implementing ecological education, cooperation for clean natural environment and efficient management of natural resources, cooperation for increasing accessibility of regions, promotion of innovation capacities, sustainable transport and communication models. Thematic objectives of these programmes were jointly approved by the Parties in accordance with national programmes and strategies. Moreover, the North West regions of Russia are partners to the Interreg Baltic Sea Programme, a programme which supports integrated territorial development and cooperation for a more innovative, better accessible and sustainable Baltic Sea region. The programme is co-funded by the European Union, based on an agreement between the EU Member States of Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Sweden and the northern parts of Germany. € 8.8 million have been allocated from the programme funds to project activities in Russia and Belarus. Support for these CBC programmes is set to continue as Interreg NEXT (new generation of CBC programmes 2021-2027).
The Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership (NDEP) is a result-focused initiative responding to calls from the international community, in particular Russia and Belarus, for concerted action to tackle the most pressing environmental problems in the Northern Dimension area - a broad area around the Barents and Baltic seas. The NDEP's objective is to help to tackle the problem of pollution caused by poor waste-water treatment, insufficient energy efficiency measures and inadequate municipal, agricultural and nuclear waste management. It includes wastewater treatment projects in St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad, Petrozavodsk, Arkhangelsk, Novgorod, Vologda, Syktyvkar, Pskov, Gatchina, Vyborg and Veliky Novgorod, district heating rehabilitation projects in Kaliningrad, Vologda and Gatchina, solid waste management project in Petrozavodsk wastewater projects in Petrozavodsk, and projects to address black carbon emissions from local heat and power generation in Vologda. The NDEP is also used for priority nuclear safety projects , to mitigate the legacy of the operation of nuclear-powered ships and submarines of Russia’s northern fleet, which are in different stages of decommissioning. The overall pledged size of the Northern Dimension support fund is € 348.2 million, with the EU as the largest contributor with a total of € 84 million.
SPIPA is a multi-country project that contributes to EU's climate diplomacy efforts and cooperation between the EU and non-European major economies - including Russia - to promote the implementation of the Paris Agreement. To respond to climate change SPIPA engages with Russian experts in such areas as forests, energy efficiency in buildings and methodological aspects of decarbonisation modelling.