Along with a rapid expansion of fossil fuel investment, the Arctic region has seen a surge of climate change effects in the last decades1. By 2050, the 23 million km2 northern hemisphere permafrost4 may decrease up to 25%1. In September 2018, the sea ice reached a minimum extent of 4.59 million km2, 26% (1.63 million km2) less than the 1981-2010 average minimum. In 2018 alone, 9.89 million km2 of ice was lost between March and September. Further, the Arctic surface air temperatures continue to warm at twice the global rate2. Loss of sea ice and warming effects may lead to an acceleration of the Siberian permafrost thaw3.
The Arctic sea ice retreat is opening a shipping passage at the Northern Sea Route (NSR), reducing the distance for trade between Europe and Eastern Asia. The number of vessels passing through the NSR has increased from 4 in 2010 to 207 in the 2011-2015 period5. Shipping emits over 940 million tonnes of CO2 each year and is responsible for 2.5% of GHG emissions globally6, which are the core cause of rising temperatures7. In the NSR region, polluting emissions from shipping further intensify warming effects8;p145. Studies show that NSR shipping does not offer more climate benefits than other routes, as the Arctic is particularly climate-sensitive9;p2.
Novatek is one of the largest natural gas producer company in Russia. In 2017, it entered the international gas market by launching LNG production at Yamal in the Arctic10;p20. Novatek’s fossil fuel distribution increasingly became the major performer in Arctic shipping. In 2019, the NSR delivered more than 31.5 million tonnes of cargo shipments, 57% more than the previous year. The cargo was comprised of 90% fossil fuels. Natural gas from Novatek’s Yamal LNG project, i.e. 20.5 million tons, represented 65% of the total11.
NSR shipping emissions can have profound climate consequences in the Artic. Novatek’s share of LNG cargo places the company as the major contributor to shipping emissions in the region.