Russia will seek sanctions relief on green investment projects for state-run energy giants such as Gazprom at next month’s COP26 climate summit, as it comes under growing pressure to join a commitment to slash methane emissions.
“We are being urged to reduce methane leakages and yet we have Gazprom under sanctions,” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s climate envoy, Ruslan Edelgeriyev, said in an interview Wednesday at the annual Valdai Club meeting in Sochi. “Let’s take climate projects out of sanctions, so that Gazprom has access to green financing, access to technologies.”
Amid surging Covid-19 infections at home, Putin has opted not to travel to Glasgow for the summit. Edelgeriyev said he had pursued the sanctions exemption proposal with U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry, as well as at a pre-COP ministerial meeting earlier this month. “If we want to reduce emissions, then climate projects should not be sanctioned wherever they are – in Russia, Iran, Turkey, in America, in Britain,” he said.
Edelgeriyev didn’t elaborate on what specific sanctions he was referring to. Gazprom itself isn’t subject to the kind of sweeping financial restrictions that some other Russian energy giants are, though it does face limits on access to technology, goods and services related to oil production in some areas
He indicated Russia could accept more ambitious climate goals if it gets what it wants at the summit. Its position underlines the difficulty of isolating climate change negotiations from wider geopolitical disputes, something the U.S. has repeatedy said it wants to do. Gazprom was among entities sanctioned by the U.S. and the European Union after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Still, the worsening impacts of climate change are now “so obvious that even the most careless people can no longer dismiss them,” Putin told the Valdai meeting late Thursday. Geopolitical and ideological rivalries become “pointless in this context, if the winners won’t have air to breathe or anything to quench their thirst.”
Europe is looking to Gazprom to help ease an energy crunch that’s sent prices soaring, a crisis Putin has blamed in part on what he called a hasty EU switch to renewable sources. Russia’s now pressing for regulators to rapidly certify operation of its Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany to boost supplies, a project the U.S. has relentlessly opposed.
Edelgeriyev said he isn’t calling for a wholesale lifting of sanctions, and that a special working group would decide what projects qualify. But if climate initiatives were exempted, he said, nations that find it difficult and expensive to meet their climate obligations could do so by investing in emissions reduction projects in Russia.
“We have had conflicts, we have conflicts and we will go on having conflicts, but the climate doesn’t care,” Edelgeriyev said, accusing Western states of double standards, including on Nord Stream 2 which he said would help Germany burn less coal and cut methane emissions as a new pipeline that’s less leaky than existing transit routes. Opponents say the pipeline is a political project designed to make the current transit route via Ukraine obsolete.
“Until there is an equal partnership Russia will not move, because we were deceived many times,” Edelgeriyev said. “And it cost us a lot.”
The U.S. and the EU are pushing for nations to join a Global Methane Pledge at COP26 to cut emissions of a component of natural gas that has more than 80 times the global-warming power of carbon dioxide. Russia hasn’t indicated if it will sign.
Edelgeriyev, a former prime minister of Russia’s Chechnya republic, said a suggestion Putin made in April for an international satellite system to create commonly agreed data on methane emissions has gone without response. Without transparent accounting methods, Moscow will be reluctant to sign up to the initiative to cut global methane emissions 30% by 2030.
What’s seen in the West as a cheap and easy way to cut greenhouse gas emissions would be extremely difficult for Russia, requiring the reversal of an energy strategy for production growth that implies higher, rather than lower methane emissions, he said.