The Environment and Climate Change Law Review: Russia


The basis of the state environmental policy until 2030 was approved by the President of Russia on 30 April 2012. The policy defines strategic targets, major tasks of state in the field of environmental conservation and mechanisms of their implementation. Russia also adopted the Environmental (2002) and Climatic Doctrines (2009). These documents define strategic goals, objectives and principles, as well as the main directions of the state policy in the field of ecology and climate.

The strategic goals of the state policy in the field of environmental development are:

  1. finding solutions to social and economic issues that ensure environmentally oriented economic growth;
  2. the preservation of a favourable environment, biological diversity and natural resources;
  3. the realisation of everyone's right to a favourable environment;
  4. strengthening of the rule of law in the field of environmental protection; and
  5. ecological safety in the long term.

The main directions of state environmental policy in Russia are:

  1. ensuring a sustainable development and sustainable environmental management;
  2. resource-saving and reduction of environmental pollution; and
  3. conservation and restoration of the natural environment.

In 2014, the state programme Environmental Protection was approved (programme implementation period until 2024), which includes five sub-programmes.

The ecological situation in Russia is characterised by a high level of anthropogenic impact (pollution of the environment by products of human activity and the depletion of soil, water, mineral, forest and biological resources as a result of economic and other activities) to the natural environment and serious environmental consequences of past economic activity. In 40 regions of Russia, more than 54 per cent of the urban population is under the influence of high and very high atmospheric air pollution.2 A significant contribution to air pollution in cities with the most polluted atmospheric air (located in the Asian part of Russia) is made by benzopyrene, which in the largest quantities enters the air as a result of burning solid fuel (especially during the heating period).

One of the most important causes of environmental problems in Russia is the inefficient and natural resource-intensive structure of the economy. Therefore, one of the main tasks of state environmental policy in Russia is to reduce the overall anthropogenic load on the environment, based on improving the environmental efficiency of the economy.

Regarding climate change, Russia proceeds on the premise that Russia's interests related to climate change are not confined only to the territory of the country and are global in nature. However, in the development and implementation of the state policy on climate, priority is given to national interests while ensuring the clarity and transparency of Russia's climate policy.

A considerable part of the Russian territory consists of areas of maximum (as observed and predicted) climate change.3 For a long time, Russia has been one of the countries with the highest level of greenhouse gas emissions. Nevertheless, the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the country has decreased by more than 46 per cent compared to 1990.4 According to the Presidential Decree of November 4, 2020, the amount of emissions by 2030 should be reduced by 70 per cent in relation to the 1990 level.5

Russia is currently in fourth place in the world in terms of CO2 emissions.6 The Climate Doctrine of the Russian Federation provides for the development and implementation of measures to reduce anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and increase their absorption by sinks, in particular:

  1. increase of energy efficiency in all sectors of the economy;
  2. development of renewable and alternative energy sources;
  3. reduction of market disproportions and implementation of fiscal policies that encourage the reduction of anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases; and
  4. protection and enhancement of sinks of greenhouse gases, including sustainable forest management, afforestation and reforestation on a sustainable basis.

In 2015, Russia signed the Paris Climate Agreement, which confirms Russia's commitment to the collective goals of the world community to combating global warming. In September 2019, the government of Russia ratified the Paris Climate Agreement.7

Politically 'green' movements do not substantially play any role in the life of the country. In the parliamentary elections of 2016, the Russian environmental party Zelenye (the Greens) gained only 0.76 per cent of the vote and did not go to the country's parliament. In general, there is a rather low level of environmental awareness among the population, and therefore environmental initiatives often do not receive widespread support. Insufficient work is also being done in Russian society to promote responsible consumption and respect for the environment and resources.

In 2020, there was a further reform of environmental legislation, but the changes were not as large-scale as in previous years. Basically, they were aimed at improving the organisational and technical aspects of previous reforms.

The main idea of the adopted changes in previous years and the latest reforms was the transition to the principles of the best available technologies8 and the application of differentiated measures of state regulation to business entities depending on the degree of environmental hazard of their activities (objects). Since 2019, the types, volume and procedure for obtaining permits for emissions, discharges and waste disposal directly depends on the hazard category of the used facility (I–III), which has a negative impact on the environment.

On 1 January 2019, in most regions of the country9 a large-scale reform of waste management was launched, in connection with which a number of new legislative changes in this area also came into force, which will be discussed in more detail below.

Recently, there have been some changes in the field of environmental control, as well as in the area of liability for infringements of environmental laws (new bodies of the offence have appeared and sanctions for certain types of offences have been strengthened, the powers of state inspectors in the field of environmental protection have been expanded, etc.). Scheduled inspections will no longer be conducted in relation to entities engaged in activities at facilities of hazard category IV. Legal prerequisites have been created for the implementation of automatic industrial environmental control systems.

Legislative framework

In accordance with Article 42 of the Constitution of Russia, everyone has the right to a favourable environment, reliable information about its condition and compensation for damage caused to his or her health or property by an environmental offence. To this right corresponds a duty, which is enshrined in Article 58 of the Constitution, to preserve nature and the environment, and to take good care of natural resources.

According to Article 72 of the Constitution, land, water and forest legislation, and legislation on subsoil and environmental protection, come under the joint jurisdiction of the federal government and the local governments.

The universally recognised principles and norms of international law and international treaties of Russia are an integral part of the national legal system (Part 4, Article 15 of the Constitution). Therefore, ratified international treaties in the field of ecology have direct effect in Russia and have priority over the norms of national legislation. Russia is a party to more than 70 multilateral international treaties, agreements and conventions on environmental issues.

The main law in the field of environmental protection is the Federal Law 'On Environmental Protection' No. 7-FZ of 10 January 2002 (the Law). The Law regulates relations in the sphere of interaction between society and nature that arise during the implementation of economic and other activities related to the impact on the natural environment within the territory of Russia, as well as on the continental shelf and in the exclusive economic zone of Russia.

As one of the founding principles of the activities that impact on the environment, the Law establishes, in particular:

  1. payment for use of nature and compensation for damage to the environment;
  2. independence of state environmental oversight;
  3. presumption of environmental hazard of the planned economic and other activities;
  4. compulsory assessment of the impact on the environment when making decisions on the implementation of economic and other activities;
  5. priority of conservation of natural ecological systems, natural landscapes and natural complexes; and
  6. responsibility for violation of legislation in the field of environmental protection and others.

The Law provides for the principle of payment for the use of nature by charging fees for the negative impact on the environment of the following types:

  1. emissions of pollutants into the atmospheric air by stationary sources;
  2. discharge of pollutants into water bodies; and
  3. storage, disposal of production and consumption waste (waste disposal).

At the same time, certain activities in the field of environmental protection are subject to licensing.

To regulate the impact of economic and other activities on the environment, thereby guaranteeing the preservation of a favourable environment and ensuring environmental safety, the Law provides for rationing in the field of environmental protection, that is, the establishment of:

  1. environmental quality standards;
  2. norms of permissible impact on the environment in the implementation of economic and other activities;
  3. other standards in the field of environmental protection; and
  4. federal norms, rules and regulations in the field of environmental protection.

The Law establishes the duty of legal entities and individual entrepreneurs to conduct, in relation to the planned economic and other activities that may have a direct or indirect impact on the environment, an assessment of the impact on the environment. In addition, in several cases, ecological expertise is conducted to establish the compliance of documents and documentation that justify the planned economic and other activities with environmental protection requirements.10 Since 1 January 2020, the range of objects of the state ecological expertise at the federal level has been somewhat reduced.

To protect the environment, the competent authorities carry out state environmental monitoring and state environmental oversight.

Issues of environmental protection are covered in other laws, including:

  1. the Federal Law 'On Radiation Safety of the Population';
  2. the Federal Law 'On Protection of Atmospheric Air';
  3. the Federal Law 'On Specially Protected Natural Territories';
  4. the Water Code of the Russian Federation; and
  5. the Forest Code of the Russian Federation.

Federal legislation on environmental protection is subject to frequent changes, and the existing laws contain many contradictions and gaps. One solution to these problems is a proposed codification of environmental legislation within the framework of a single Environmental Code, the development and adoption of which has been proposed over the years by the scientific community and some public organisations.

In many Russian regions there are independent laws on, among others, the protection of the environment, especially protected natural areas, waste, environmental funds, regulating regional issues and establishing environmental protection measures at the regional level. Some regions of Russia, such as Bashkortostan and Tatarstan, have adopted regional environmental codes.

Precedents are not generally recognised as a source of Russian law. However, judicial practice is important in terms of the application of law, its interpretation and clarification of its individual norms. In the field of ecology, the Resolution of the Plenum of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation of 18 October 2012 No. 21 'On the Application by the Courts of Legislation on Liability for Violations in the Field of Environmental Protection and Nature Management' is of great importance.

Another significant piece of legislation is the Resolution of the Plenum of the Supreme Court of the RF of 30 November 2017 No. 49 'On Some Issues of the Application of Legislation on Compensation for Damage Caused to the Environment', which outlines the basic principles for the application of environmental protection legislation by the courts and clarifies the scope, methods, grounds and procedure for compensation of harm caused to the environment.

The regulators

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNR) is the key governmental authority responsible for environmental protection and natural resources. The competence of the Ministry includes issues of the use and protection of subsoil, water objects, forest resources and wildlife; specially protected natural areas; environmental protection and ensuring environmental safety; protection of atmospheric air; handling of production and consumption wastes (excluding radioactive wastes); improvement of economic mechanisms for regulating the use of natural resources; and environmental protection.

Under the supervision of the MNR are five services that perform functions to provide public services and manage federal property in certain areas. These are:

  1. the Federal Service for Supervision of Use of Natural Resources;
  2. the Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring;
  3. the Federal Water Resources Agency;
  4. the Federal Agency for Subsoil Use; and
  5. the Federal Forestry Agency.

Issues of technological and nuclear supervision, control functions in the sphere of safe operations related to subsoil use, industrial safety, safety in the use of nuclear energy, spent fuel management and the safety of radioactive waste management are within the competence of the Federal Service for Ecological, Technological and Nuclear Supervision, which is directly subordinate to the government.

These state bodies independently carry out legal regulation and develop regulatory legal acts on issues within their competence; they exercise control and supervision functions.

In accordance with Article 46 of the Russian Constitution, decisions and actions (or inaction) of public authorities, local governments, public associations and officials may be appealed to the court. Since September 2015, cases of contestation of normative legal acts, decisions, actions (inaction) of public authorities, officials and other cases arising from administrative and other public legal relations are subject to review in administrative proceedings in accordance with the Administrative Court Procedure Code of the Russian Federation.


For a breach of environmental law there are established civil, administrative, criminal and disciplinary liabilities. Compensation for damage to the environment is carried out in accordance with the Civil Code, the Land Code, the Forest Code, the Water Code, Federal Law No. 7-FZ 'On Environmental Protection', other laws and regulatory legal acts on environmental protection and environmental management. The failure of a person to accept administrative, criminal or disciplinary responsibility does not exclude the possibility of imposing on him or her the obligation to compensate for harm to the environment. Equally, bringing a person to administrative, criminal or disciplinary responsibility is not a basis for exempting a person from the obligation to eliminate the violation and compensate for the harm caused to him or her.

i Civil liability

In accordance with the legislation, legal entities and individuals that cause damage to the environment as a result of its pollution, depletion, damage, destruction, irrational use of natural resources, degradation and destruction of natural ecological systems, natural complexes and natural landscapes and other violations of legislation in the field of environmental protection should compensate the damage in full (voluntarily or by a court decision).

As a general rule, in accordance with Article 1064 of the Civil Code and Article 77 of the Law 'On Environmental Protection', a person who has caused harm to the environment is obliged to pay compensation if there is guilt. The law may provide for compensation for harm and in the absence of guilt of the injurer.

Thus, by virtue of Article 1079 of the Civil Code, legal entities and citizens whose activities are associated with increased danger to others are obliged to compensate for the damage caused by the source of increased danger, regardless of the presence of guilt, if they do not prove that the damage was caused by force majeure. In this regard, for example, the owner of a pipeline is responsible for environmental damage caused as a result of illegal tapping into the pipeline by third parties.11

Compensation for damage caused to the environment can be carried out by recovery of damages or by imposing on the defendant the obligation to restore the disturbed state of the environment (Article 1082 of the Civil Code, Article 78 of the Law 'On Environmental Protection'). The choice of the method of compensation for the harm caused when applying to the court is made by the claimant.

Damage to the environment caused by a legal entity or an individual entrepreneur is reimbursed in accordance with the rates and methods of calculating the amount of damage to the environment approved by the federal executive authorities and, in their absence, based on the actual costs of restoring the disturbed state of the environment, considering the losses incurred, including loss of profits. According to a court decision, it is also possible to restore the disturbed state of the environment at the expense of the injurer in accordance with the restoration project, if there is an objective possibility of restoring the environment and the offender can perform restoration work within a reasonable time frame.

Claims for compensation for damage to the environment caused by violation of legislation in the field of environmental protection can be brought within 20 years. At the same time, the limitation of action for compensation of losses and damage caused by radiation impact on the environment is three years from the day when the person learned or should have learned about the violation of his or her rights.

Persons who jointly cause harm to the environment shall be jointly liable (Article 1080 of the Civil Code). However, the court has the right to impose a solidary liability on such persons based on their individual degree of guilt.

If several persons acted independently of each other and the actions of each of them led to environmental damage, according to the general rule, such persons bear shared responsibility (Article 1064 of the Civil Code).

The damage caused to the health of citizens by the negative impact of the environment is also cause for compensation for moral harm.

ii Administrative liability

Administrative liability in the field of environmental protection comes only for offences set forth in the Code of Administrative Offences of the Russian Federation (Chapter 8).

Within the framework of administrative liability, the offender can be warned or fined, the products and technical means of committing an environmental offence seized, or the offender may be deprived of a licence to use natural resources or conduct entrepreneurial activities related to environmental management. Instead of a fine for certain offences, an administrative suspension of activities for up to 90 days is possible.

Sanctions of the Code on most of the norms provide alternative types of punishment; that is, they give the law enforcer the freedom to determine the penalty and its size (for example, choosing the size of the fine between the specified minimum and maximum). The Code outlines various penalties for citizens, officials, legal entities and individual entrepreneurs.

Since 2020, two new norms of the Code of Administrative Offences have come into force, providing for liability for failure to submit or untimely submission of reports on the 'environmental fee' and for non-payment of this fee.

At the same time, administrative liability is often combined with civil liability in the form of compensation for harm caused to the environment.

iii Criminal liability

Criminal liability for environmental crimes is established by Chapter 26 of the Criminal Code of the Russia. Environmental crimes risk danger to the public because they encroach on people through nature, by destroying or qualitatively deteriorating the natural environment. Violation can be carried out by both action and inaction.

The types of crimes envisaged in the Criminal Code are, as a rule, material; that is, responsibility comes only when material, socially dangerous consequences occur. However, there are some formally defined crimes.

iv Procedural issues

Cases bringing civil liability for causing harm to the environment are considered by the courts of general jurisdiction (in the case of guilty individuals) or by the Arbitrazh (commercial) courts (not arbitration courts), if the offender is an enterprise or an entrepreneur. The person can be brought to administrative responsibility not only by the court, but also by the competent executive authorities. Criminal liability is possible only by a court decision. Only an individual can be brought to criminal responsibility. Criminal liability of legal entities is not provided in Russia.

The subjects of applications to the court for cases of violations of legislation in the field of environmental protection and nature management are:

  1. individuals and legal entities;
  2. the prosecutor;
  3. federal bodies of executive power authorised to exercise state environmental oversight and their territorial bodies;
  4. executive bodies of Russian subjects authorised to implement regional state environmental oversight;
  5. local government bodies;
  6. other bodies in cases provided for by law; and
  7. public and other non-profit associations (i.e., associations or unions) that have the status of a legal entity and carry out activities in the field of environmental protection.

Litigation in Russia is adversarial; that is, the parties are free to provide their evidence. In the civil process, each party must prove the circumstances to which it refers as grounds for its claims and objections. In administrative and criminal proceedings, the presumption of innocence prevails; that is, the person against whom proceedings are being conducted in the case of an offence is presumed innocent until proven guilty according to the established procedure, established by an effective court decision (or body or official in the administrative process). The person that is brought to responsibility is not obliged to prove his or her innocence, and all irremovable doubts about the person's guilt are interpreted in his or her favour.

Decisions of courts can be appealed in the higher courts, and decisions on the case of an administrative offence may be appealed both administratively (to a higher authority or higher official) or in the courts.

Reporting and disclosure

The issues of disclosure of environmental information in Russia are not sufficiently developed at the current level of legislation. For example, there is currently no detailed regulation of the disclosure of environmental information by the state. Currently, the MNR is working to improve legislation to enable Russia to join the UNECE Aarhus Convention.

From 1 January 2021, the requirements for the collection, processing, storage and dissemination of information on the state of the environment and its pollution, as well as for the receipt of information products, come into force.12

Any natural resource user in Russia is obliged to provide environmental reporting to the supervisory authorities. This reporting includes, in particular, reporting about the payment of fees for negative environmental impact, reporting on waste generation, a technical report on the unchanged production process, statistical reporting (for waste, air and water), etc.

The provision and publication of non-financial reporting in the field of environmental protection and ensuring environmental safety for business is not mandatory today. Thus, there is a problem of stimulation of Russian companies and organisations to voluntary representation of non-financial reporting under international standards in the field of preservation of the environment and maintenance of ecological safety. Nevertheless, a substantial number of large companies (including the largest Russian energy companies) currently voluntarily disclose their environmental performance indicators and environmental policies.

At present, the draft law 'On Public Non-Financial Reporting' is with the government of the Russian Federation and is being discussed. The draft provides, in particular, for the mandatory disclosure of certain environmental information13 and its confirmation by professional audit organisations. It is planned to extend the effect of the law to state and public companies, unitary enterprises, companies with annual revenues or assets of more than 10 billion roubles and companies whose securities are listed on stock exchanges. In general, the Bill is in many ways is similar to the provisions of European Directive 2014/95/EU.

Environmental protection

i Air quality

The quality of atmospheric air is determined by its compliance with hygienic standards of air quality and environmental quality standards for atmospheric air. The environmental quality standards are set by the MNR, and hygienic standards are set by the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Welfare. At present, a large number of standards are in force in the form of determining the maximum permissible concentrations, an approximate safe level of exposure to certain substances in the atmospheric air, etc.

To regulate emissions of harmful (polluting) substances into the atmosphere, the following are established:

  1. technical emission standards;
  2. maximum permissible emissions;
  3. maximum permissible standards of harmful physical effects on atmospheric air; and
  4. technological emission standards.

Technical emission standards are established for certain types of stationary sources of emissions, as well as for transport or other mobile means and facilities, and are universal. The maximum permissible emissions are set in relation to a particular stationary source of harmful (polluting) substances into the atmosphere and their aggregate (the organisation as a whole).

Draft standards for maximum permissible emissions are developed by the organisation itself, taking into account individual characteristics, passing a series of approvals, and then submitted for approval to the territorial body of the Federal Service for Supervision of Use of Natural Resources. The approval of standards for maximum permissible emissions of radioactive substances is within the competence of the territorial bodies of the Federal Service for Environmental, Technological and Nuclear Supervision.

Harmful physical impact on atmospheric air is allowed under a permit issued by the authorised body and on a paid basis. For emissions of radioactive substances into the air by a stationary source, a special permit is issued that establishes the maximum allowable release of radioactive substances (for seven years).

Since 2019, state regulation measures in the field of environmental protection (including air emissions) have been applied to enterprises depending on the category of the object being operated, with a negative environmental impact assigned to such an object.14

Emissions of harmful (polluting) substances into the air at category I facilities are carried out on the basis of a comprehensive environmental permit. This document is issued for a period of seven years and is extended for the same period subject to the totality of the conditions provided for in paragraph 13 of Article 31.1 of the Law on Environmental Protection.

From 1 January 2019 to 1 January 2025, all organisations and persons operating facilities that have a negative impact on the environment and belong to category I are required to obtain a comprehensive environmental permit. Thus, this is a new type of permit, which combines a full range of issues of the negative impact of the facility on the environment and is designed to replace all environmental standards and permits, the design of which was required earlier.

Emissions of harmful (polluting) substances at the facilities of hazard category II are carried out on the basis of the declaration on environmental impact submitted to the authorised state body. The declaration contains, in particular, the declared volume or mass of emissions, discharges of pollutants, and generated and disposed of waste. The declaration is submitted once every seven years, subject to the invariance of the technological processes of the main industries, qualitative and quantitative characteristics of emissions, discharges of pollutants and stationary sources. Along with the declaration, these business entities must also calculate and provide norms (standards) of acceptable emissions and discharges.

For emissions of harmful (polluting) substances into the atmospheric air at category III facilities, obtaining a comprehensive environmental permit and filling out a declaration on environmental impact are not required. Subjects engaged in economic or other activities shall submit a report on emissions of harmful (polluting) substances into the atmospheric air to the authorised state body. The norms of acceptable emissions and discharges for category III facilities are calculated only for radioactive, highly toxic substances, and substances with carcinogenic, mutagenic properties.

Legal entities and individual entrepreneurs operating exclusively at category IV facilities are exempted from the development of norms of acceptable emissions and discharges of harmful substances, norms for waste generation and limits for their disposal; reporting on the mass or volume of emissions and discharges, reporting on the generation, use and disposal of waste (with the exception of statistical reporting); making payments for negative impact on the environment; and conducting scheduled inspections of compliance with environmental legislation.

Permanent state monitoring of atmospheric air is carried out to control the quality of atmospheric air, as well as state supervision in the field of atmospheric air protection. Legal entities and individual entrepreneurs who pollute the atmospheric air using stationary sources are obliged to conduct industrial control over the protection of atmospheric air or to organise environmental services and to conduct inventory of stationary sources and emissions of harmful (polluting) substances. The law also provides for public control over the protection of atmospheric air.

In 2020, in some cities (with especially those with polluted air such as Krasnoyarsk, Nizhny Tagil, Omsk, Norilsk and Chelyabinsk), an experiment was launched to set a quota on pollutant emissions, including the establishment of a procedure for the functioning of the state information system for monitoring air quality. Federal requirements have been established for the list of compensation measures approved by the executive authorities of Russian regions where the experiment is being carried out, aimed at improving the quality of atmospheric air. Also, the list of substances that deplete the ozone layer and are subject to state regulation was supplemented (for hydrofluorocarbons, as part of the adoption of the amendment to the Montreal Protocol).

In addition, starting from 2020, new rates of fees for negative impacts were introduced, with the calculation of fees for exceeding the limits of pollutants and the procedure for making advance payments for negative environmental impacts being changed. In June 2020, requirements were introduced for measures to reduce emissions during unfavourable weather conditions. In particular, it has been established that economic subjects that have sources of emissions of pollutants into the air are developing measures to reduce emissions under unfavourable meteorological conditions, taking into account the degree of danger of predicted weather conditions for all sources of emissions at objects of negative impact of categories I, II and III, subject to regulation in the field of environmental protection. Recommendations are also given on the list of measures to reduce emissions.

ii Water quality

Surface and groundwater quality is maintained by establishing and observing the norms of permissible impacts on water bodies by nature users. Standards for permissible impacts on water bodies are developed by the Federal Agency for Water Resources with the participation of other bodies on the basis of the maximum permissible concentrations of chemicals, radioactive substances, microorganisms and other water quality indicators in water bodies. The developed standards are also approved by the Federal Agency for Water Resources in the presence of a positive conclusion of the state ecological expertise.

The amount of substances and microorganisms contained in wastewater discharges into water bodies should not exceed the established standards for permissible impacts on water bodies.

In accordance with the established standards for permissible impacts on water bodies, water users develop standards for permissible discharges of substances (excluding radioactive substances) and microorganisms into water bodies, which are approved by the Federal Water Resources Agency in agreement with other state bodies.

The norms of permissible discharges of radioactive substances into water bodies for water users are approved by the Federal Service for Ecological, Technological and Nuclear Supervision in consultation with other state bodies. In 2021, a new procedure for declaring the safety of hydraulic objects comes into force.

iii Chemicals

The Chief State Sanitary Doctor of Russia approves hygienic standards for the maximum permissible concentration of chemicals in soil, water and air. The standards for the maximum permissible emissions of chemicals and microorganisms in the air are approved as part of the standards for maximum permissible emissions into atmospheric air. Regulation of the impact of chemicals contained in waste on the environment is carried out through the establishment of the legal regime of production and consumption of wastes.

In addition, there is the Federal Law 'On the Safe Management of Pesticides and Agrochemicals' No. 109-FZ of 19 July 1997, which regulates the issues that arise in the implementation of public administration in the field of the safe handling of pesticides and agrochemicals. This law provides that during the registration tests of pesticides and agrochemicals, an environmental assessment should be conducted of the regulations for their use, and that the results of registration tests should include the conduct of state environmental experts.

iv Solid and hazardous waste

The Federal Law 'On Production and Consumption Wastes' No. 89 FZ of 24 June 1998 defines the legal basis for handling production and consumer waste to prevent the harmful effects of wastes on human health and the environment.

The degree (class) of hazardous waste is determined in accordance with the applicable legal acts. Depending on the degree of its impact on the environment, waste is divided into five hazard classes:

  1. class I: extremely hazardous;
  2. class II: highly hazardous;
  3. class III: moderately hazardous;
  4. class IV: low-hazard; and
  5. class V: virtually non-hazardous waste.

Radioactive waste management is regulated by the special Federal Law 'On Radioactive Waste Management' No. 190-FZ of 11 July 2011.

Activities of collection, transportation, handling, utilisation, neutralisation and placement of waste of I–IV hazard classes are subject to licensing. Accumulation of waste, namely, temporary storage of waste for future utilisation, neutralisation, placement or transportation after 11 months, can be carried out without a licence on the site where it was produced.

Currently, Russia is undergoing a major reform of legislation in the field of waste management. Following the instructions of the President of Russia, a large number of regulatory legal acts have been adopted, including those aimed at stimulating the processing of production and consumption waste. Thus, Russia has finally begun to tackle one of the most pressing problems in the field of ecology: waste management.

For example, the burial of scrap and non-ferrous metals has been prohibited since 2018, and from 2019 the burial at landfills of auto-tyre casing, plastic, glass packaging, packaging paper and cardboard, as well as other types of waste paper, is prohibited. The phased introduction of waste separation, and the introduction of the GLONASS satellite system for the transport of dangerous goods and wastes (classes I and II), among others, has also been implemented.

Since 2019, waste reform has begun in the vast majority of Russian regions. One of the foundations of the reform is the transfer of authority to organise a solid waste management system at the regional level. It has become compulsory to involve a single regional operator (in the process of competitive selection) as an executor of waste management services. From 2021, it is proposed to extend the federal legislation on public procurement to the purchases of regional operators. The waste collection and sorting service was singled out as independent from the number of public utilities.

Since June 2019, administrative fines have been additionally introduced for violation of sanitary norms when handling solid waste (Article 6.35 of Administrative Offences Code of the Russian Federation). Only legal entities and individual entrepreneurs who carry out activities at facilities of hazard category I and II are required to develop draft waste generation standards and limits for their disposal (based on a comprehensive environmental permit or as part of a declaration of environmental impact, respectively). The Russian government established in December 2019 a procedure for the development, approval and adjustment of the federal scheme for the management of solid municipal waste. The first draft of the scheme was approved in April 2020.

The scheme is an interactive map with sources of waste generation, routes of their movement and infrastructure facilities. It defines locations for placing new sorts and polygons, and optimises their capacities. Currently, the federal scheme includes more than 4,000 facilities, of which more than 850 infrastructure facilities are to be built and reconstructed by 2024. The use of any objects (landfills, factories, etc.) that are not included in the scheme will be prohibited.

Despite the steps taken, the problem of waste management remains one of the most pressing environmental problems in Russia. The vast majority of rubbish (around 97 per cent) is currently disposed of in landfills, often located near cities, whose residents are afflicted by the constant stench coming from the landfills. As a solution to the problem, the construction of waste incineration (recycling) plants is proposed (in the coming years, about 25 waste incineration plants should be built and put into operation); however, owing to the high population density in large urban agglomerations, such initiatives do not have the support of the population.

Also, in 2020, in preparation for the launch of waste incineration facilities, a new type of waste disposal – energy utilisation – was fixed in environmental legislation, which means solid waste can be used as a renewable energy source (secondary energy resources) after extracting useful components from it at processing facilities (waste-to-energy).

v Contaminated land

In accordance with Article 13, paragraph 5 of the Land Code, persons whose activities have led to deterioration of the quality of land (including because of its pollution and soil disturbance) are required to ensure a land rehabilitation (recultivation). Land reclamation involves measures to prevent land degradation and restore its fertility by bringing land to a condition suitable for use in accordance with its designated purpose and permitted use, including by eliminating the effects of soil pollution, restoring the fertile soil layer and creating protective forest plantations.

At the same time, the rehabilitation of lands violated by legal entities and citizens in the implementation of various activities that caused soil disturbance, as well as during the storage and disposal of waste and contamination of the land surface, is carried out using their own funds, if the restoration of these lands requires the removal of the fertile soil layer.

If the negative impact on the land has led to its degradation, deterioration of the ecological situation or soil disturbance, as a result of which economic activity is not allowed, and the elimination of such consequences through recultivation is impossible, a land abandonment is allowed. The persons guilty of the land abandonment are also obliged to compensate for the losses (including the lost profit) of the owners of land plots in respect of which a conservation decision has been taken.

Regarding water bodies, Article 55 of the Water Code of the Russian Federation establishes an obligation on the owners of water bodies to implement measures to protect water bodies, prevent their pollution and the depletion of water, and take measures to eliminate the consequences of these. However, in general, harm is compensated by the person who caused it.

For a long time, a particular issue for Russia was the problem of eliminating accumulated harm. Accumulated harm is harm to the environment that has arisen because of past economic or other activities, where the obligation to eliminate the harm has not been met or has not been fully implemented. Special regulation of these issues only appeared in Russia in January 2017.

Work on the liquidation of accumulated harm to the environment can be carried out by state authorities of the subjects of Russia and local self-government bodies, and in some cases is carried out by an authorised federal body.

Climate change

Russia is currently working on the formation of a system for enterprises to monitor and report on greenhouse gas emissions, to develop a model for effective state regulation in this area. A draft law 'On State Regulation of Emissions' is being developed, the adoption of which is still postponed. Nevertheless, in September 2019, Russia ratified the Paris Agreement and this law should become an important tool to achieve the goals set forth in the Paris Agreement.

The largest share of greenhouse gas emissions in Russia comes from the energy sector. One of the means of increasing energy efficiency is the development of renewable energy. In Russia, hydropower traditionally has a high share of electricity generation (approximately 20 per cent), but generation based on other renewable sources (solar power, wind power, etc.) is still at the development stage, and amounts to approximately 1.5 per cent of the total generation.

The problem of insufficiency of renewable energy development is recognised by the government and is noted in the Energy Strategy; however, one of the problems in the development of renewable energy is that its use in Russia is not always economically justified (Russia has huge hydrocarbon reserves whose use is economically more profitable). Therefore, the development of renewable energy is not a priority for Russian energy policy. This is also confirmed by the content of the new Energy Strategy for the period up to 2035, adopted in the summer of 2020.

The support mechanisms only apply to renewable energy sources (RES) with an installed generating capacity of not more than 25MW, and certain measures only apply to certain categories of RES. The main mechanisms for supporting RES in Russia are:

  1. subsidies from the federal budget that compensate for the cost of technological connection to the energy system;
  2. competitive selection of investment projects for the construction of generating facilities operating based on RES and the conclusion of contracts for the supply of capacity to the wholesale market in relation to selected projects;
  3. obligations of grid organisations on priority purchase of energy from RES to compensate for their technological losses during transmission on the retail electricity market; and
  4. a system of green certificates confirming the production and sale of electricity from RES.

Outlook and conclusions

In a departure from many Western countries, Russia lags behind in promoting environmental initiatives. Thus, for example, there is currently no national mechanism for trade in certificates for CO2 emissions; support and development of renewable energy sources is not a priority of the state energy policy and the vast majority of waste generated is disposed of in landfills without being sorted (with the prospective development of Waste-to-Energy).

However, despite many serious problems in the sphere of ecology, the Russian leadership has taken serious steps in recent years to improve the environmental situation in the country. The authorities are aware of the scale of environmental problems, their importance and the need for their immediate resolution. For these reasons, the Environmental and Climatic Doctrines are accepted, an appropriate legal and regulatory framework has been created and separate programmes and projects in the field of ecology are being developed. In 2019, Russia started the full-scale reform of legislation in the field of waste management (including the introduction of waste sorting in many regions). The government is also taking measures to improve the mechanisms for disclosing environmental information and developing a system of state regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

Owing to the scale and complexity of existing environmental problems, their solution requires serious financial investment and careful elaboration of means. In addition, many environmental problems are related to the structure of the Russian economy, with a need to improve the environmental and energy efficiency of the national economy. Achieving this goal is one of the priorities when developing the Russian economy for the future.


1 Sergey Milutin is managing partner of SKS Confidence Law Firm, Attorney at Moscow Bar Association

2 Fundamentals of state policy in the field of environmental development of Russia for the period up to 2030, dated 30 April 2012.

3 Order of the President of Russia of 17 December 2009 No. 861-rp 'On the Climate Doctrine of the Russian Federation'.

4 Considering the absorbing capacity of ecosystems.

5 Presidential Decree of 4 November 2020 No. 666 'On reducing greenhouse gas emissions'.

7 See Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation of 21 September 2019 No. 1228 'On the ratification of the Paris Agreement'.

8 The best available technology is that of goods production, performance of work, rendering of services, determined on the basis of modern achievements of science and technics and the best combination of criteria for achieving environmental protection goals, provided that it is technically feasible (Article 1 of the Law on Environmental Protection).

9 With the exception of federal cities of Moscow, St Petersburg and Sevastopol, which have the right not to apply certain conditions of the new law relating to the issue of waste management until 1 January 2022.

10 See Federal Law 'On Ecological Expertise' No. 174-FZ of 23 November 1995.

11 The Resolution of the Plenum of the Supreme Court of the Russia of 30 November 2017 No. 49 'On Some Issues of the Application of Legislation on Compensation for Damage Caused to the Environment'.

12 See Order of the Ministry of Natural Resources of Russia dated 30 July 2020 No. 523 'On Approval of Processing, Storage and Dissemination of Information on the State of the Environment and its Pollution, as well as to Obtain Information Products.'

13 See also the Order of the Government of the Russian Federation of 5 May 2017 No. 876-r 'On approval of the Concept for the Development of Public Non-financial Reporting and an Action Plan for its Implementation'.

14 See Article 4.2, Law 'On Environmental Protection', Resolution of the Government of Russia of 28 September 2015, No. 1029 'On Approval of the Criteria for Classifying Objects that Have a Negative Impact on the Environment, to Objects of Categories I, II, III and IV'.

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