Even as large swaths of the Siberian forest have burned in wildfires — made increasingly worse by climate change — the Kremlin has focused its strategy to slash emissions on the region’s trees.
President Vladimir Putin announced this month that Russia “will strive” for carbon neutrality by 2060 — its most ambitious climate goal.
But how Russia plans to accomplish that has been met with criticism and skepticism.
Putin claimed this year that Russia’s vast territory, especially its forests, could neutralize “several billion [metric] tons” of carbon dioxide emissions — a figure climatologists say is unrealistic and undermines the viability of his carbon-neutrality pledge.
Putin’s increased emphasis on climate change will be tested at the United Nations’ climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, which opens Sunday. World leaders, including President Biden, have insisted that pledges at the gathering must keep alive the most ambitious goal of the 2015 Paris climate agreement:limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) compared with preindustrial levels.
Some experts question whether Putin’s talk will translate into action in one of the world’s largest oil and natural gas producers.
“The statements Russia makes at [the U.N. climate conference] can often be considered as window dressing,” said Anna Korppoo, a research professor at Norway’s Fridtjof Nansen Institute who specializes in Russian climate policy.
“You have to say that you’re doing something,” she added, “but then there’s the other question of whether that something is concrete.”
It’s not enough, she noted, to make pledges by “simply recalculating” how much carbon a forest absorbs.
Russia has long faced criticism for setting weak climate targets and not doing more to curb the carbon footprint of its massive fossil fuel industry. Experts at the Climate Action Tracker, which monitors countries’ climate promises, rate Russia’s 2030 target under the Paris climate agreement as “highly insufficient.”
Putin has said he won’t attend the Glasgow climate conference in person, though he’s still expected to participate via video link.