9 january 2013

Meeting on The Main Tasks and Activities for Environmental Protection in 2013

Dmitry Medvedev's opening remarks:

Good afternoon, colleagues. We are starting this year by discussing a very important subject, the environment. This is really a priority for Russia’s development. I have called you all here to give a boost to the programme the Year of Environmental Protection, 2013, and discuss a number of events. The authorities have already spent some time working on this, but some aspects may require amendments, which is why we have invited experts and specialists along. We must also think about what should be done next, and not only what we are going to do this year.

I don’t want to state the obvious. Everybody understands how much depends on the state of the environment. Environmental issues influence living standards, the state of the outside world, life span. But I would like to draw your attention to something. Some ten years ago, as I remember, the problems of environmental protection were not a priority for us, but even caused some indignation: “Feed us first, then tackle the environment.” Now things have changed completely. Now everyone pays attention to environmental issues – the state, public structures, opinion leaders, and representatives of oppositional political forces. And this is normal. This is global practice and we are already close to that level of concern.

But it is more important to act than to talk. Allow me to remind you that in 2012 the President has approved the state policy on Russia’s environmental development until 2030. This is a strategic programme aimed at promoting environmentally-centered economic growth and preserving (in any case, trying to preserve) a healthy, natural environment.

On December 27, 2012, the Government approved a programme which I signed off – Environmental Protection until 2020. It stipulates some basic targets, as well as financing arrangements for nature conservation and correcting the damage made by human economic activity.

I think it would be a good idea to discuss this programme as well because it should not be taken for granted – it can certainly be revised if there is a good organisational or environmental reason for doing so. Meeting these targets requires everyone’s combined efforts, from people and from the Government, including federal agencies, regional authorities and local activists. So we will concentrate on this.

The Government has also adopted a plan for the Year of Environmental Protection. I must repeat that nature conservation should not be used as a populist policy. We need to achieve some tangible targets, so that the situation changes and people see improvements. This is our real goal.

To succeed, we must keep working to reduce the negative impact on the natural environment, to preserve and restore unique natural sites and reserves; to improve environmental oversight and monitoring, and to enforce environmental safety laws and regulations more strongly. This is especially important.

Although fines and criminal punishments cannot solve everything, some people still ought to be fined or jailed because there are things happening in Russia which would be absolutely unimaginable elsewhere in the world. Well, maybe there are a couple of countries where these kinds of things are possible, but I won’t name them now, just so as not to offend. Anyway my point is that a developed country would never dare treat its natural environment in such barbarian manner. I am not only referring to companies and industrial facilities. I am also talking about people’s everyday attitude. This aspect may be even of greater importance because at the end of the day, it is people who manage companies.

I have not said anything new or made any revelations. Let us now talk in general about what we need to do in 2013. Let’s treat this as an initial meeting on the Year of Environmental Protection project.


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Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Sergei Donskoi informs journalists about the results of the meeting

Sergei Donskoy: Today’s meeting was dedicated to the Year of Environmental Protection and the events we are planning to implement this year. As Mr Medvedev said, we have a good opportunity to concentrate all our efforts and rally all parties concerned, including the executive authorities, which should certainly take part in the effort, as well as the regional administrations, as regional interests should also be taken into account. This year, we must carry out as many planned assignments as we possibly can, given that the problems have been piling up for years and we just couldn’t get a number of these off the ground.

We discussed a wide range of issues, from legislation, which should be amended  this year, to priorities that have been outlined once again. I am referring to a law on the best accessible technologies, a law on waste, laws on protected natural sites and efforts to promote national parks, natural reserves and sanctuaries. We also discussed some applied projects related to how to phase out the earlier environmental damage in the Arctic and the Baikal natural territory. All these projects are being implemented. We have suggested expanding the list of these sites, including by drafting and approving a special federal targeted programme in 2013. We have been given until April to consolidate the projects we have prepared, to incorporate them into the federal targeted programme and to submit the document to the Government. We are planning to raise about 100 billion roubles for the programme from federal, regional and private sources. The projects will make it possible to cleanse the polluted territories, removing the litter accumulated during the Soviet and subsequent periods, when a number of businesses failed to introduce the necessary technologies and allowed negative environmental impacts to take hold.

We also discussed in detail how to develop biodiversity. We are willing to implement projects directed at reviving rare and disappearing species. Our colleagues from the World Wildlife Fund suggested that we should hold a large-scale conference dedicated to the reproduction and protection of the polar bear population, in which the Prime Minister would be invited to participate. This is an interesting suggestion that concerns the Arctic and the polar bear, an animal of much importance for the environmental situation in the Arctic. I think we will give our full support to this initiative, and my colleagues and I have arranged to meet once again in order to discuss in detail how we are going to organise this event. We have also discussed the issue of environmental education. 

The Education Minister spoke about the plans for 2013, including holding Olympiads, involving undergraduate and postgraduate students in this sphere, and holding a Russian commemorative event for Academician Vernadsky. During the meeting our colleagues raised this issue several times, and we’d like to once again emphasise the importance of supporting this event in terms of the country’s scientific heritage.

What else? I think a number of colleagues’ proposals, which will be worked on by the Government in 2013, will be included in the protocol. These are proposals to amend legislation and regulations, and to provide funding for different biodiversity projects, including for the implementation of projects dealing with past environmental damage, which I already mentioned.

If there are any questions…

Question: As regards the federal targeted programme, totalling 100…

Sergei Donskoi: … billion roubles.

Question: How much does federal funding total?

Sergei Donskoi: We plan to finance nearly 80% of the cost from the federal budget. The rest will be raised from regional budgets and private investors. We have identified 77 projects based on our monitoring, on the system of monitoring which has been established and which identifies regions that are environmentally vulnerable, that have been polluted and have sustained environmental damage. In all, 77 projects can be consolidated under the programme. But there are more similar projects. The Defence Ministry has many neglected sites where military camps used to be stationed that have not been properly dismantled and removed. We will work jointly with the Ministry of Regional Development, which is also interested in the implementation of these projects. There is major work to be done, which I think we will get through in 2013.

Question: And what is the name of the federal targeted programme?

Sergei Donskoi: We are calling it Environmental Safety for now, but I think its name needs to be discussed with colleagues.

Question: And what is its timeline?

Sergei Donskoi: I think up to 2020. But again, the budget cycle is very important here – how we will stay within the budget and how we will carry this all out.

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