Sergey Ivanov, Special Presidential Representative for Environmental Protection, Ecology and Transport, told at the Plenary Session about a meeting of the State Council on the country’s environmental development held in December 2016. The meeting had been in preparation for a year. Recommendations and algorithms for addressing global man-made environmental problems and challenges had been worked out. These challenges include the shortage of fresh water, diminished biological diversity, and the complex situation with waste in the Pacific. The speaker noted that carbon emissions have been increasing by 40% to 30 billion tonnes a year since the late 1990s. The number of natural disasters increased fivefold. Scientists believe human activity is one of the main causes. According to experts about 55,000 people died from cardiovascular and lung diseases during the course of wildfires in the Moscow area in 2010 causing economic damage in the amount of 97 billion roubles.
Mr Ivanov said: “We have to solve the difficult task of diversifying production and ensuring economic growth through the use of clean (“green”) technologies. Crimea has its own environmental problems: shortage of water, soil erosion, domestic and industrial waste. At the peak of the summer season Crimea may host up to 15 million people placing a substantial load on the environment. Four modern plants for thermal waste treatment are to be built in the Moscow Area in 2017. A similar plant is to be built in Tatarstan. Crimea also needs such a plant. Forests need to be restored and green belts to be created around cities.”
On 19 April 2017 President Vladimir Putin signed a decree “On the Environmental Security Strategy of the Russian Federation until 2025”. The government of the Russian Federation is to approve a plan for implementing the strategy within the next three months. “We should approach environmental problems in Russia seriously,” the speaker said.
Sergey Ivanov believes that “the polluters should pay for pollution. All the environmental levies and fines should be “green” and should be spent only on improving the environment. Business does not have to pay for what it has not done and for what has been done before it. Our task is to prevent further damage.”
The Special Presidential Representative also touched upon the topic of economic growth. He said: “There is growth and growth. If growth occurs due to predatory exploitation of nature this is not growth but a crime. It is necessary to impose fines, to prosecute and shut down such enterprises if they fail to mend their ways.”
In the near future the world may face mass migration of people because of water shortage, Mr Ivanov said. This may cause military conflicts. He stressed that “Russia is a world environmental donor. We absorb carbon dioxide produced by others.”
Sergey Donskoy, Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment of the Russian Federation, said that waste and local pollution were the main internal environmental problems for Russia. Russia occupies a special place in the world in terms of the state of its ecosystem and natural reserves. According to experts, 65% of the country’s territory, that is, 11.0 million square kilometers, are environmentally sound. The area of specially protected territories in Russia is comparable to the area of Western Europe. Forests occupy about 50% of Russia’s territory and the whole population practically lives in urbanized areas accounting for 30% of the territory.
The Minister said that the key problem is that 300 major Russian enterprises generate more than 50% of all pollution.
In conclusion he said: “We should introduce a system of environmental wellness indicators. Production needs to be modernised. A new waste-free model of the economy is needed. At least 1.5–2% of GDP should be spent on nature conservation. Today the figure is barely 0.8% of GDP. Since 2016 Crimea has been diminishing the amount of waste. It is necessary to build a model for managing these processes.”
Professor Sergey Glazyev, the Adviser to the President on Regional Economic Integration, said: “All the economic growth programmes currently being developed sidestep the problem of the environment because they have to cut their costs and environmental activities add to these costs. Current methodologies make it possible to accurately assess the environmental damage from the economy. Previously there was a direct link between pollution and ecological payments. Ecological funds were vertically centralised. Later, on the IMF recommendations, we switched to charging environmental tax. We have to revert to the system of environmental funds.”
Professor Glazyev cited the following figures: “In Canada nature conservation accounts for 30–35% of production costs in non-ferrous metallurgy. In Russia the figure is not more than 10%. People pay with their health for economic growth. What happens to the bumper profits of resource extracting companies? They go into offshore companies,” the speaker concluded.
“Ecology, Mr Glazyev said, must become another source of economic growth. Our country is capable of creating a closed-cycle economy.”
Sergey Aksyonov, the Head of the Republic of Crimea, stressed the need to continue work to create an attractive business climate for investors in Crimea. The Head of the Republic said that the most frequent obstacles faced by the investors are administrative, in particular the time it takes to go through various administrative procedures and secure approvals. “While a businessman goes from one official door to another, demand in the market changes, the market situation changes and implementation of the project becomes irrelevant. What matters is the speed, simplicity, precision and quality performance of all the government bodies that work for investors,” the head of the Republic of Crimea explained.
Johann Hübner, Deputy of the Austrian National Council (Lower House of the Austrian Parliament) said that “the environmental situation in Austria is very good. This is our policy and it costs money,” he said. He admitted that compliance with environmental standards is an additional burden on business, but at the same time it makes the economy more efficient and sustainable.
He cited the example of China which demonstrates a phenomenal rate of industrial growth, but ignores environmental protection. Bangladesh produces cheap textiles by dispensing with environmental standards altogether.
Vladimir Konstantinov, Chairman of the State Council of the Republic of Crimea, noted that “In 2014 Crimea faced a high risk of economic collapse, but we have preserved the economy. Key decisions were taken promptly and all this worked. All the enterprises have been preserved. Today we are building the foundations of a new economy. Crimea is changing. Agriculture was steadily growing in 2015–2016 due to higher efficiency and new technologies. A good headstart has been made. Extractive industry (sand, gravel) has grown several times. The building industry is booming. There are no unemployed builders in Crimea.
In conclusion he said: “Crimea is back within Russia without having lost its identity and its recreation capacity. We are sure that Crimea will cope with all the environmental problems.”
Roberto Chambetti, Chairman of the Regional Council of Veneto, Italy, gave an account of the work of the local waste disposal service in his region which handles about 70% of all waste.
He noted: “We do not create landfills, instead we build new waste processing plants. We use waste to obtain raw materials. The assets saved in this way go to meet other needs, including environmental protection.”
Mr Ciambetti believes it is necessary to bring back ethics into production and business. Development should be measured not only in terms of GDP growth, but also in terms of the quality of water, food, medical care, education and culture. “The consumer must be sure that the products are safe. It is necessary to harmonise profit and quality,” the speaker noted.