The Russian icebreaker Tor at the port of Sabetta in the Kara Sea off the Yamal Peninsula in the Arctic. Photo: AFP / Kirill Kudryavtsev

India, China and Russia have resolved to adhere to much laxer long-term deadlines for countering climate change compared with that championed by the European Union.

The dominant narrative is captivated by discussion around prospects of countries meeting their “net-zero” carbon emission targets. The obsession with macro-level ultimatums may not be the only point to stress in the global climate-change debate. Nuances in the pursuit of energy security and development goals closely tie together to the ability of countries to deliver on their macro-level targets. 

While the switch to renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar is desirable, it is not completely reliable. There is a need for grid stabilization or constant supply when such sources experience downtime due to natural factors like weather, which greatly limits the amount of power these sources can produce.

There is little favorable commentary on countries adopting or increasing the share of relatively cleaner fossil fuels such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) over traditional mainstays like coal. Despite coal being one of the worst-offending sources of carbon emissions, Russia, China and India rely on it to meet their proliferating power-generation needs. 

The recent energy crunch hitting China has led to a massive upsurge in energy supplies from various sources in Russia. 

The Russian leadership’s recent pivot to climate change as a policy priority comes only from pragmatism; arguably, the effective change is inspired by external factors. One of those factors seems to be the EU carbon tax, which has the potential to cost Russian exporters nearly €1.1 billion (US$1.24 billion) every year.

Russia’s pilot projects in Far East

Russia’s Sakhalin Oblast under its Governor Valery Limarenko has taken the initiative to switch to greener sources of energy. Limarenko, a former ROSATOM (Russian state nuclear energy company) department head, has championed much of the efforts on carbon capture technology and carbon-neutral sources of energy in the region. 

Limarenko’s push both for export and domestic use of hydrogen in Sakhalin region as well as for export of hydrogen and carbon-neutral LNG to other countries is being seen as a spearheading effort in Russia’s response to climate change – although the ambitious timelines in some cases are a bit too quickly approaching for comfort, beginning in 2025

Recent examples of Limarenko’s strategy materializing from plans to reality can be seen in the successful shipment of the first carbon-neutral LNG to Japan in October. The shipment to Japan’s Toho Gas originated from the Sakhalin-2 project, which includes partners such as Russia’s own Gazprom, Royal Dutch Shell, and Japan’s Mitsui Group and Mitsubishi Corporation.

Although Japan under its newly elected Prime Minister Fumio Kishida seems set to bet big on nuclear energy again, Russian-supplied carbon-neutral LNG and hydrogen will contribute at least in part to its emission-reduction goals and some of its specific energy-security needs. 

Amid these developments, the first ever successful shipment from Russia’s Arctic Yamal LNG project through the Northern Sea Route to China’s Shenzhen port arrived in October too. 

Similarly, the Vladivostok-Chennai maritime corridor could be the channel for Yamal LNG to reach Indian ports, thus paving the way for regular LNG shipments from the Yamal Peninsula and Sakhalin Oblast to serve as the stopgap measure to help reduce emissions by China, Japan and India.

Aditya Pareek

Aditya Pareek is a research analyst at the Takshashila Institution, an independent, networked think-tank and public-policy school based in Bangalore.

Ruturaj Gowaikar

Ruturaj Gowaikar is a research analyst at the Takshashila Institution in Bangalore.