ECUMENE 2021: Russia is a Key Player in the Transition to the New Reality

Russia is a key player in the transition to a new reality: at the ECUMENE 2021 Congress key steps to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals were discussed.

What decisions has Russia taken in the field of sustainable development, what energy and climate projects await our country this year and next year, and what proposals should be submitted for discussion before the conference in Glasgow? World experts answered these and other questions at the session ‘Reaching UNSDGs by 2030: Next Steps’, which summed up the two-day work of the First International Congress on Responsible Finance for Climate Change.

The event was supported by the UN, with Gazprombank JSC as the general partner.

The Congress was held in a hybrid format: some of the speakers and participants met face-to-face at the Skolkovo venue, while the rest joined it online. About 2 000 participants and more than 60 000 viewers watched the live broadcast from 302 cities out of 54 countries.

According to the UN forecasts, achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 could bring an additional $12 trillion to the global economy, while creating more than 380 million jobs, Viacheslav Fetisov, UN Goodwill Ambassador and Chairman of the All-Russian Society for Nature Conservation (VOOP) said at the concluding session of the Congress. ‘Russia must be part of this process, participate in the creation of global rules of the game, especially focus on the environmental future of the planet. Without the well-being of the territory of the Russian Federation, without initiatives of the largest territory in the world, it will be impossible to create and implement these rules’ he said.

Minister of Economic Development of the Russian Federation Maksim Reshetnikov spoke about global initiatives in the field of sustainable development in Russia. ‘The green agenda itself and the low-carbon development agenda, of course, will require serious investment, so the first question we had to answer was which investments should be considered green and which should not. We had to introduce a taxonomy of green projects, which the government approved last week. This taxonomy was developed in close cooperation with companies; we had a large working group. As a basis we took Western European standards of green finance, according to which the green projects include all renewable energy, housing with energy efficient technologies, electric transport and many others’ said the Minister.

At the same time, he added that the department added a domestic project - nuclear power - to the European green taxonomy. According to Maksim Reshetnikov, it was a principled position, because Russia is one of the leaders in the nuclear field. In addition, low-carbon development without the atom is impossible, the Speaker added.

‘We are actively shaping our own regulatory framework, our own climate agenda. At the moment it consists of several tracks. The first one is the implementation of the law on limiting greenhouse gas emissions, which was passed by the State Duma and signed by the President in the summer. This involves the creation of a system for financing climate projects and issuing carbon units. This is the main objective of the law. The second task is to set up a system of carbon reporting so that companies with emissions of more than 150,000 tonnes of CO2 per year will be covered by this reporting system. Moreover, by the end of the year we are to amend this law by order of the President so that all reporting is verified by special organizations so that we can trust it’ said the head of the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation.

First Deputy Governor of the Bank of Russia Ksenia Yudaeva also shared the results of sustainability work. ‘The Bank of Russia has already issued recommendations for issuing companies that issue shares, bonds on the markets. We have some banks started to develop their own questionnaires and request information from their borrowers. At the next stages, we should probably think about wider dissemination of this practice and make it compulsory rather than recommended. We are also preparing recommendations for boards of directors on ESG-factors accounting in the activities of organizations; recommendations for disclosure by financial institutions on ESG-factors accounting in offering financial products and services to clients; recommendations for disclosure by non-credit institutions of non-financial information’ said Ksenia Yudaeva.

In addition, according to the Speaker, Bank of Russia is working with the government on the taxonomy of social projects and the launch of green mortgages.

First Vice President at VEB.RF — Member of the Management Board Alexey Miroshnichenko touched upon the issue of Russia's potential to lead the world energy transition in his speech. ‘In terms of opportunities for Russian companies, we can become a hydrogen supplier. We have huge areas where we can generate green electricity from wind, solar and tidal power. The Minister was absolutely right when he said that our nuclear and hydroelectric power capacity is low-carbon. If we're talking about the technical challenge of reducing emissions, we can use that capacity to generate hydrogen or ammonia. This is a big opportunity not only for those industries, but also for related industries: copper, nickel, our metal producers may also see this opportunity for themselves’ said the expert.

For this reason, he separately emphasized that in terms of the global common task to reduce the greatest amount of emissions for the minimum amount of money, there are great opportunities for foreign investors in Russia. ‘Here we, as the Development Bank, are ready to participate, including by giving guarantees for such projects’ assured Alexey Miroshnichenko.

At the same time, he recalled an important issue that, in his view, should be raised in international negotiations – achieving common environmental and climate goals should be above political differences, so the financing of green projects should be excluded from the sanctions.

The session was also attended by Elena Borisenko, Deputy Chairwoman of the Management Board, Gazprombank JSC, Sanda Ojiambo, CEO & Executive Director of the United Nations Global Compact, and Erik Solheim, The Sixth UN Environment Executive Director and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations.