August 13th, 2020
After years of neglect under the Soviet Union, the environment has become a significant issue in Russia today. Soviet policies that encouraged rapid industrialization and development left a legacy of air pollution and nuclear waste with which Russia now is struggling to contend. The country’s energy and carbon intensities remain high and have only decreased marginally since the Soviet Union collapsed (Fig. 2.7.12). In addition, despite the objections of nascent environmental groups, the post-Soviet
Figure 2.7.12 Carbon dioxide emissions in Russia (IEA, 2004).
Russian government has passed legislation to facilitate the permanent storage of other countries’ nuclear waste on Russian territory. Although environmental awareness in Russia is rising, the cost of remedying the country’s environmental hot spots is high, and the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources has a limited budget. As a result, cleanup has been slow. In November 2004, Russia ratified the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. The Protocol’s targets become legally binding commitments for ratifying countries. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia’s GHG emissions have fallen by about a third. Consequently, Russia should not have difficulty meeting its Kyoto target and could earn billions of dollars by selling back the difference between its emissions targets (set in 1990) and its actual emissions. Russian energy sector produces up to 91% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions, about half of all harmful emissions into the air and 30% of all harmful discharges into water. Although such emissions declined in absolute terms over the 1990s, they did not fall as fast as GDP, despite air-management efforts and fuel switching to natural gas, which came to account for half of TPES. At the same time, the threat of increased emissions in future grew with the increased relative importance of heavy and energy-intensive industries, ageing capital stock, lack of investment and systemic inefficiencies in energy consumption. Inefficiencies stemmed from low energy prices, a lack of metering and controls, defects in markets and market discipline and industry’s continuing orientation to meeting production goals.
Electricity sector alone contributed 26.8% of harmful emissions in 1999. Upstream oil emissions are the next most harmful within the energy sector, with 9%. All other parts of the energy sector contribute less than 5% of emissions. Total emissions of classic pollutants and CO2 remain among the highest in the world. Emissions of SOx and CO2 per unit of GDP are much higher than OECD averages. Emissions of conventional air pollutants from the energy sector decreased significantly in 1993-1999, due mainly to
the economic downturn. However, in some cases, emissions of SOx, NOx, particulates, CO, and VOCs decreased less than the decrease in production in each sector over the 1993 to 1999 period. In some cases emissions even increased. Thus, production decline and air-management efforts were more than offset by countervailing factors, including ageing capital stock, lack of investment and systemic inefficiencies in energy consumption. The inefficiencies stem, for example, from low energy prices, a lack of metering and controls, deficiencies in markets and market discipline and industry’s continuing orientation to meeting production goals, as opposed to demand-side management.
Although overall oil-sector emissions of pollutants into the air decreased about 29% from 1993 to 1999, the drop came mainly from lower methane and volatile organic – compound emissions. Emissions of SOx, CO, NOx and particulates actually rose by 46%, 2%, 39% and 64%, respectively. In 1999 CO accounted for 47% of total pollutant emissions from the oil sector, methane 34% and particulates 5%. Despite the doubling of filtering-device capacity in the oil sector in 1999, the wide dispersion of emission sources limited capture. Emissions into the atmosphere increased slightly. The main emissions from the natural-gas sector are methane – a greenhouse gas – CO, SOx and NOx. Much progress has been made in reducing emissions of NOx, which fell by almost 60% from 1993 to 1999 thanks to the modernization of combustion chambers and replacement of gas compressor units at compressor stations.