Russia wants industrial companies to reduce carbon footprint by planting trees
The Kremlin intends to involve companies that want to offset their carbon footprint in developing vast forests of Eastern Siberia. Although some experts doubt the effectiveness of offset programmes based on planting trees in reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, Moscow sees this project as part of the global fight against climate change.
Russia wants to use its Far Eastern forests to offset carbon, says Bloomberg adding that the country is creating a solution aimed to collect satellite and drone data about the CO2 absorption capacity of the region’s forests. The Kremlin intends to lease sections of forest to companies that will invest in planting new trees and protecting what’s already there. If the data shows that the investment has enhanced CO2 absorption, the company can receive a carbon credit to trade it via a digital platform. Several companies including oil and gas producer Gazprom Neft, petrochemical company SIBUR and machine manufacturer Sinara Group have already expressed interest in the project.
Moscow also regards the project as part of the global fight against global warming. “Russia has 20% of global forests, so the international community must be fair in that respect,” said Minister for the Development of the Russian Far East and Arctic Alexey Chekunkov in an interview. “We have the potential to turn them into a massive carbon capture hub.”
According to the latest data, Russian forests absorbed about 620 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2018, which could offset around 38% of national emissions. However, carbon offsetting schemes have faced criticism from scientists, as they consider them insufficient to avoid catastrophic global warming. “The lion’s share of Russia’s plan to cut emissions should be renewable energy, new technology and energy efficiency,” believes Director of the Climate and Energy Programme at WWF Russia Alexey Kokorin. “Additionally, and with very strict criteria, would come forestry development.” Canada is also setting up a marketplace to trade carbon credits, but the system will run alongside efforts to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
Meanwhile, Russia has the weakest climate target under the Paris Agreement compared to any major economy. The country’s climate goals under the agreement do not require the use of carbon offsets, says Anna Romanovskaya, the director of the Moscow-based Yu. A. Izrael Institute of Global Climate and Ecology. Nonetheless, companies may sell credits internationally if they can prove they’ve added to the forest’s absorption capacity, she considers warning that obtaining accurate data on carbon sequestration from forests is difficult. Trees are vulnerable to unpredictable events, and the project also requires detailed inventory data. “We will need to demonstrate to the international community that calculation of CO2 absorption in our offset projects is precise, reliable, and not a single unit is miscalculated,” explains Romanovskaya. “One mistake, let alone an intentional falsification, and the credibility of our projects may be lost.”