Will Russia ever leave fossil fuels behind?

25.11.2021

В России нефть и газ обеспечили 39% доходов федерального бюджета и 60% российского экспорта в 2019 году, а в этом году доля всех доходов от ископаемого топлива составила 14% ВВП. Тем не менее, мировая экономика ориентирована на постепенный переход к углеродной нейтральности, и в Кремле понимают, что Россия должна готовиться к поэтапному сокращению использования традиционных видов топлива.

Как долго отрасль ископаемого топлива в России будет оставаться жизнеспособной? Что может стать основой новой экономики, не связанной с ископаемым топливом? Какие барьеры существуют в процессе энергетического перехода? Ответы на эти вопросы читайте в материале BBC.

The small West Siberian city of Khanty-Mansiysk, home to just over 100,000 people, is Russia’s unofficial capital of oil. The town is surrounded by some of the most extensive oilfields in the world, which shape not only the region’s geology but its economy and identity.

The relatively short history of oil in Khanty-Mansiysk has transformed this part of Russia. The Samotlor oil field, Russia’s largest, was discovered in the 1960s to the east of the city and fast became the source of the area’s considerable wealth. Khanty-Mansiysk sits within the Tyumen region, which often ranks second in Russia for wellbeing and socioeconomic development, after only Moscow.

In this part of Russia, oil is an important source of not only money, but pride. Since the 1960s, oil workers and engineers have been praised and featured as heroes in novels and movies. The local Museum of Geology, Oil and Gas is a major architectural landmark of the city. In the city’s airport, one can see photographs of oil workers and engineers from various decades through the 20th Century, including of Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltzin, meeting workers on an oil field.

Amid such a celebration of this fossil fuel, one could imagine that the realities of climate change haven’t yet percolated to the heartland of Russia’s oil.

But in the last few years, that has begun to change. This year, one of the city’s major oil forums, «Oil Capital», which took place in March, paid particular attention to climate, with panels and discussions dedicated to decarbonisation. Local officials, companies and scientists tried to understand what the future of Khanty-Mansiysk, and of Russia, might be in a new low-carbon world.

«The climate agenda has been a topic here for a few years by now, ever since Russia’s Climate Doctrine was adopted in 2009,» says Irina Akhmedova, associate professor at the Oil and Gas Institute of the Yugra State University. The Climate Doctine was Russia’s first political document to outline a basis for climate regulation. «However, it is not an easy topic, especially as we are such a mono-specialised region.»

Deep oil

Oil and gas make up 80% of Khanty-Mansiysk’s economy. Overall in Russia, oil and gas provided 39% of the federal budget revenue and made up 60% of Russian exports in 2019. The share of all fossil fuel rents (the price of fossil fuels minus the cost of producing them) amounted to 14% of GDP that year, according to a forthcoming paper by Igor Makarov, a researcher at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow.

Despite the deep entrenchment of oil and gas in its economy, Russia is very much aware of the climate crisis and has made some moves to integrate it into current and future policies. In late September, the government created a number of special cross-ministerial working groups to prepare the economy for the global energy transition. These groups will forecast risks and opportunities for Russia, with their findings feeding into an action plan to be created by the end of 2021.

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