Russia’s Clever Climate Trick: Offers Forests As Carbon Sinks

  • Date: 01/04/15
  • AFP

Russia, moving ahead of a deadline for submitting pledges to tackle climate change, said Tuesday it could cut its greenhouse-gas emissions by up to 30 pe rcent compared to 1990 levels, subject to conditions. Its “final decision” on the commitment will depend on the outcome of the negotiating process and on the commitments by “major emitters” of greenhouse gases. 

In a roster of commitments on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) website, Russia announced that “limiting anthropogenic [man-made] greenhouse gases in Russia to 70-75% of 1990 levels by the year 2030 might be a long-term indicator.” 

But, it said, this was “subject to the maximum possible account” of including forests — deemed absorbers of carbon gases — in the reduction. 

And, it cautioned, Russia’s “final decision” on the commitment will depend on the outcome of the negotiating process and on the commitments by “major emitters” of greenhouse gases. 

March 31 was a rough deadline for the 195 countries in the UNFCCC process to submit so-called “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs).These are the heart of an intended pact to tackle greenhouse gases that would be sealed in Paris in December and take effect from 2020.

Russia is the fifth biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, after China, the United States, the European Union (EU) and India, according to the US thinktank the World Resources Institute (WRI).The reference to forests is a highly contentious part of the climate negotiation process.

Trees are so-called “carbon sinks,” meaning that they absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere under the natural process of photosynthesis.As a result, the argument is that forests should be taken into account, and set against national commitments to reduce carbon emissions.

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