Russian Oil firms might use Wind Power to Pump Oil...and to make you feel good about it
Welcome back to Climate Weekly!
A long winter nearing its end in Moscow with temperatures finally rising above zero. However, meteorologists warn that our cold and snowy winter season is likely to be followed by a hot and prolonged summer with record-breaking temperatures.
But this week, we’ll have to start in space.
At the end of February, Russian space agency Roscosmos launched the Arctica-M satellite tasked with observing and recording changes in the Arctic. Moscow is planning to launch another satellite in 2023, and, combined with the first one, it will provide 24-hour weather monitoring of the region which is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world.
What’s more, despite fraught relationships between the United States and Russia, climate change remains a rare topic to agree on. On March 9, the Russian president’s representative on climate Ruslan Edelgeriyev claimed that he had had a productive conversation with his American counterpart, John Kerry, discussing ways to address warming Arctic and deforestation.
Nevertheless, Russia has largely avoided any domestic action on climate, and only adopted a framework plan to address these issues last year, and it still lacks concrete steps to follow.
Moscow also takes a somewhat ambiguous approach to the warming Arctic and climate change overall. On the one hand, it’s well aware that the degradation of the permafrost, as well as the increased risk of floods and forest fires, present an imminent danger to Russian citizens.
On the other hand, the Kremlin sees rich economic opportunities in the territories that are gradually becoming ‘free’ from snow and ice. For example, the climate change framework mentioned before, also highlights the benefits of agricultural expansion and enhanced trade and navigational opportunities in the Arctic Ocean, all as a result of rising temperatures. So, if you suspect that Russia is all talk and little action on climate, you are probably right.
Russian energy companies affiliated with the state have ambitious plans for oil exploration and extraction in the Arctic. This year, the biggest of them, Rosneft, extended the exploration sights of its newest project — Vostok Oil. Experts estimate the overall cost of the project will be $131 million. Ironically, Rosneft claims that the extraction works will be partly powered by wind turbines.
Accelerating fossil fuel projects are coupled with poor infrastructure management. A recent report of the European Space Agency indicates that, in 2020, methane emissions from Russian gas exports to Europe were up 40%, compared with the previous year. The ESA experts link this to irresponsible maintenance practices that are easily avoidable.
This also applies to oil transportation. As Greenpeace discovered, emergencies connected to fossil fuels have become more frequent. On March 6 alone, there were three such accidents:
Ob river caught on fire due to an oil spill from the underwater pipeline
Two oil containers caught fire at an oil refinery in the Yaroslavl region,
A train with oil products derailed near Khabarovsk.
However, the efforts of Western powers to bring Russia to the climate negotiating table are providing some hope. The Russian government recently came up with the idea to set up a digital platform for trading “carbon credits”. That is, the companies will have an opportunity to lease land from the state to invest in tree-planting and preservation of forests. In exchange for these carbon-reducing actions, they will receive a quota for carbon emissions.
Faced with international isolation, Moscow desperately needs a positive agenda in international cooperation. In May 2021, Russia takes over the chairmanship in the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum for cooperation among the Arctic States. Climate issues will be atop the agenda during its lead over the next 2 years, and Russia isplanning to address it.
Thanks again for reading.
There’s been some amazing climate developments this week. If you’re like me, and particularly interested in Indonesia - which spread rumours it might be developing a net zero plan while it also de-listed coal ash as a hazardous material, check out this great essay by former Climate Tracker fellow, Nithin Cocoa.
See you next week