Visits within Russia

1 august, 2009 16:37

The Russian Prime Minister held a meeting on environmental protection and security

Vladimir Putin's introductory remarks:

Esteemed colleagues,

Today, we have gathered at Lake Baikal to discuss environmental issues. Constrained use of natural resource and the creation of a secure and comfortable environment for people to live in is part of a modern, competitive economy. Environmental issues can influence living standards, life expectancy and public health.

In addition, strict environmental standards force business to adopt modern technology, to cut costs and to save resources. We also shouldn't forget that compliance with environmental standards is a mandatory requirement for accessing the markets of leading economies, those that are most profitable and receptive.

We therefore pay attention to environmental programmes in our key strategy documents, including the Long-Term Development Concept until 2020 and the Guidelines for Government Action until 2012. It's about improving the law, measures to reduce industrial waste, waste recycling development and the revitalisation of polluted areas.

Unfortunately in business and in the administrative system of our country, the tradition of a "residual approach" to ecology persists. This costs us too much. Air pollution beyond the average daily level, for instance, substantially affects public health.

Still, we can't say that nothing has been done to protect the environment. Recent years have seen an apparent stabilisation in environment damage. But this is certainly far from enough. In some large areas, the ecosystems are overstressed.

Another challenge we face is the practically free use of natural resources in the economy and in businesses, which in turn doesn't require any progress beyond obsolete and "dirty" technology in wasteful industries.

Meanwhile, nearly all the leading economies maintain sustainable growth while monitoring water, gas and oil consumption as a unit of GDP, and emissions rates per manufacturing unit.

We should admit that many Russian facilities exceed their foreign counterparts in atmospheric emissions and waste water disposal rates. But we do have some positive examples. On the Baltic coast, in the Gulf of Finland, ports are being re-equipped; and some oil companies, like those operating in the Caspian, use technology which is unmatched in the world. And this is a very good sign.

Nevertheless, the environmental-economic mechanisms, many of which were formed back in the Soviet era, still exist today but they are certainly far out of date. The current system of environmental control often falls below world standards. There is no motivation for manufacturers to introduce environmentally-friendly technology or to reduce emissions.

In the near future, we need to develop and introduce such mechanisms. Additionally, we need to thoroughly study ways to tighten sanctions for environment pollution.

Improving environmental protection is even more important as we plan to develop new territories including East Siberia and the Arctic shelf.

We should establish new industries in these areas using only current technology that is compliant with the highest environmental standards. Moreover, and specialists know this very well, the northern ecosystem is very susceptible to pollution.

Russia has huge natural resources at its disposal and great potential. This is a wealth and a tremendous responsibility before the current and the next generations.

That's why in 2006 we decided to shift the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean oil pipeline away from the buffer zone around Lake Baikal.

We will most likely discuss the future of the Baikal pulp-and-paper mill today. I would like to call on you to take this issue very seriously. The facility has been operating since the mid-1960s. Now, thousands of people are employed there. Over 1,600 people are jobless. As academician Robert Nigmatulin told me today, the mill is not environmentally-friendly, but he also admitted that it hasn't done any substantial damage to the lake over the decades.

I want to highlight the following: such facilities are not environmentally secure. We should consider a solution. But we shouldn't make any hasty decisions as we need to think about the people who work there and who have families.

A number of environmentally oriented changes were made to the original plans for the construction of the Olympic facilities in Sochi. This should be our approach towards other programmes.

I would like to point out that we didn't save any money by rerouting the oil pipeline to the Pacific coast or by building Olympic facilities, or while dealing with many other issues. We don't save money on environmental security. The only consideration for us today is the destiny of our people. Therefore, our work should be transparent.

Upgrading environmental standards, if the industrial facility already exists, should be a smooth process. We should consider the current economic and social environment, setting feasible periods for giving up outdated technology and for dealing with social issues which emerge while industries are upgraded. And we should create new jobs where the old ones are cut.


Political analysts unanimously predict an increased influence in environmental factors on global politics. Lack of fresh water supplies, climate change and other related issues have long been on the global agenda.

There is enough proof that we need an effective environmental protection policy, which should become an integral part of the national development strategy.

Our work should be based on transparency and public dialogue, cooperation and interaction with civil society institutions. Going back to the construction of the Olympic facilities, I must say that this kind of dialogue proved effective. Yes, we did spend more money than we expected, but we did it consciously, and we intend to continue with that approach.

I would like to point out that expanding cooperation with public environmental organisations is one of the most important points of the environmental protection measures package prepared by the Government. I guess you already have the draft of this document. After our meeting today, the necessary changes will be made, and I will put my signature on it.

So, let's get down to work.

* * *

Vladimir Putin's concluding remarks:

Our meeting is about to conclude, and I'd like to say the following. It is not by chance that we gathered at Lake Baikal for a meeting on environmental protection and security. This lake is one of Russia's symbols and one of our country's treasures. There are many issues to resolve, and they all reflect the environmental challenges in our country and abroad.

There are examples of natural resource misuse in other countries, where mismanagement hasn't been reversed. In some cases, like the Great Lakes, the negative effects have been reversed, while the biological resources off the Japanese Islands haven't regenerated. It is unclear whether these resources will ever be restored.

We must learn from these mistakes and prevent a recurrence in the future. As we mentioned earlier, we must consider possible environmental impact when launching new programmes and use the latest technology. We are capable of doing so today, and we will stick to this approach.

We clearly understand our responsibility to our citizens and our role in international efforts to protect the environment. In Russia our part is huge, not least because we have a large territory and many unique ecosystems, which are all part of our area of responsibility.

I must say, however, that we live up to this responsibility. You know that without consent from Russia, the Kyoto Protocol wouldn't have been ratified. The existence of the protocol depended on whether Russia took part or not. In that document, Russia's signature, which stands at the bottom, was the one to let the global community go on successfully discussing this subject.

In the next few years, this protocol will expire. We will continue to cooperate with our partners, taking into consideration our interests and those of other countries which will need to take up their share of responsibility no matter how hard it is for them.

It's hard for us as well. The example of Baikal shows that there are economic and social issues. As is now clear, the Baikal pulp-and-paper mill is not the only problem. There are plenty of other issues which are no less important in preserving Lake Baikal, besides the mill.

I would like to thank all of you for the frank and substantive discussion. The package of environmental protection measures, which has already been prepared, will be updated with your suggestions as they were included in today's protocol.

We will definitely go on discussing our country's environmental issues in the same frank and open way that we did today.

Thank you for your cooperation.