Russian government makes bold eco-legislation promises – but avoids discussing concrete measures

frontpageingressimage_800px-2003-04-18_Moscow_Kremlin.jpg Photo: wikimedia commons

Yet, as the Russian president and his ministers spoke of energy efficiency and even made allowances that renewables should be throw into Russia’s energy mix, no concrete goals for the use of alternative energy have been discussed, and no suggestion that the country will deviate from it’s present path of nuclear power expansion have been heard.

Speaking Tuesday at the opening of a meeting on improving Russia’s environmental and energy efficiency in the Russian economy, Medvedev – former president Vladimir Putin’s hand-picked successor – said legislation geared toward assessing energy growth’s impact on the environment is in preparation.

“Firstly, we need to prepare a fully-fledged system of standards for allowable impact on the environment,” he said, according to a transcript of the speech obtained by Bellon Web.

“Such a bill is now being prepared and I expect that by October 1st 2009, it will be introduced in the State Duma.”

Medvedev’s proposal for introducing stiff environmental impact standards, he made no mention of requiring public environmental studies to be part of the mix, and the contents of the bill going to the Duma are as yet unknown.

Medvedev’s words were, however, an echo of statements made earlier in the week in the city of Novo-Ogaryevo by Natural Resources Minister Yury Trutnyev, who promised a review of Russia’s environmental legislation.

The kind of changes Trutnyev suggested in his appearance – in which he was accompanied by now-Prime Minister Putin – were for “normative regulation and technical regulations for the introduction of energy and resource saving technologies that will stimulate businesses to make a shift to energy saving technology.”

Trutnyev said that, “we must proceed from the position that each enterprise calculate waste, considering the application of the most contemporary technology.”

In his Tuesday appearance, Medvedev said that according to government data, 40 million Russians live in substandard environmental conditions.

“Of these 1 million are forced to live in areas with dangerous levels of pollution,” he said in an indirect reference to residents of the Chelyabinsk Region, home to the Mayak Chemical Combine, and once of the most radioactively contaminated places on earth.

Medvedev decried the fact that current legislation fails to encourage alternative energy, which he said was anachronistic.

“Naturally, this situation does not encourage the introduction of environmental and resource saving technologies, and therefore outdated technologies are still in place, which is a sign of backwardness and waste, things that, unfortunately, we found everywhere” he said.

“And in the final analysis (…) this affects our international competitiveness.”

To rectify the situation, Medvedev said that the Russian federal budgets for 2009 and “the next few years,” needed to provide funding for projects involving the use of renewable energy and the introduction of environmentally friendly technologies.

Medvedev, however, did not estimate how much of Russia’s energy mix would be provided by renewable and alternative sources or how much budget funding would be earmarked for their development..

Recent estimates by environmental groups, including Bellona, have indicated that renewables and alternative energy will account for some one percent of Russia’s total energy portrait, despite Medvedev’s promise to fund them in upcoming federal budgets.

Environmentalists, commenting on the Trutnyev-Putin meeting in Novo-Ogaryevo – were the budget initiative was also discussed – said the legislative review and reform was too little, and that a national project for environmental rehabilitation had to be mounted.

This point of view was most vociferously espoused by the Russian division of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Yet, the WWF’s national director, who took part in the Trutnyev-Putin meeting also noted that, “decisions were taken for a programme to include realistic goals for environmental protection over the next 5, 10 15 years.

Charles Digges