In Russia’s ‘Death Valley,’ Putin’s Pledge to Become Carbon Neutral Rings Hollow – by Ann M. Simmons (Wall Street Journal – December 4, 2021)

KISELYOVSK, Russia—In October, President Vladimir Putin pledged Russia would become carbon neutral by 2060, an ambitious promise for the world’s fourth-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and an economy heavily reliant on fossil fuels.

Few were as surprised at Mr. Putin’s announcement as the residents of Kiselyovsk, a town they call “Death Valley” because of the open-pit coal mines that belch noxious gases and coal dust, leaving the air acrid and children sick.

For many, Kiselyovsk, in the heart of Russia’s Kuzbass coal mining region, is emblematic of the country’s deep and growing attachment to coal, both to fuel its economy and as a valuable export that earned it around $12 billion last year, with much of that coal going to energy-hungry Asian countries.

Placards in Kiselyovsk boast “Clean Coal—Green Kuzbass,” but the landscape is blackened with ash. Leaves on trees appear matte gray and a smoky haze blots out the sun most days. Violent explosions from the pits reverberate across the bleak terrain, shattering the windows of homes, cracking walls and shifting buildings off their foundation.

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