President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, friends and colleagues.
Today is World Environment Day, if I am not mistaken. This is a very good reason to discuss the issues that have brought us together. World Environment Day was initially launched to attract public attention all over the world to environmental issues and to help promote a careful and zealous attitude to nature.
It makes good sense that on this very day we are having our round table discussion of the safe and efficient development of the Arctic. This part of the globe largely determines the environmental wellbeing of the entire planet, of our shared home.
Our meeting place is also symbolic. We are meeting at the historical headquarters of the Russian Geographical Society. Ever since it was founded in 1845, the Russian Geographical Society has been implementing programmes to develop the North and the Arctic, and supporting projects linked to nature conservation. At the RGS’ initiative and with its active participation we launched a massive ‘spring cleaning’ effort on our Arctic territories a few years ago.
This actually boils down to clearing the consequences of our past attitude to the Arctic, which was often thoughtless and consumerist. However, we should not only fix the damage done to environment in the past decades. We should also make sure we never repeat these mistakes in the future. We need a new logic and up-to-date work principles in the Arctic.
Attending our meeting are representatives of government agencies whose activity is linked with Arctic studies, businessmen who are implementing industrial and infrastructure projects in this region, as well as leading Russian environmental experts: ecologists and researchers whose participation in the economic development of the Russian Arctic is of principal importance.
It is common knowledge that the nature of the Arctic is very fragile and vulnerable to our influence. This makes it clear how responsible people working there should be, especially in view of the scale and multi-faceted nature of the tasks facing them.
The plans to develop the Russian Arctic for the next few decades contain a number of major investment projects dealing with the development of hydrocarbon reserves on the Arctic shore and shelf and with the creation of new industrial facilities and transportation routes. Primarily I am referring to the revival of the Northern Sea Route.
Therefore, now, as the Russian Arctic is going through a new stage of industrial, social, economic and infrastructural revival it is especially important to focus on nature preservation.
I would like to repeat here that as we involve this region in economic development we must maintain a carefully planned and balanced approach based primarily on the precise understanding of the resources and the natural potential of the Arctic and on a fair assessment of the feasibility of certain actions. We have to develop our own scientific and technological capacities to develop the North. Second, we must strictly follow all the toughest environmental standards. Nature preservation is an absolute priority. Third, our activities in the Arctic should be perfectly transparent, which envisages, among other things, a constant dialogue with civic institutions and with nature conservation and environmental organisations. Naturally, we should give priority to those who are honestly working for a good cause rather than exploiting environmental issues, making them a subject of trade, personal promotion or business.
At the same time, we favour the development of international partnership in the Arctic, including in environmental efforts. I would like to stress that Russia, almost a third of which is located in the Far North, feels special responsibility for the Arctic, for preserving its environmental stability. This is why prior to launching work on the State Programme for the Social and Economic Development of the Russian Arctic until 2020 we adopted another strategy, namely the Strategic Action Programme for Environmental Protection. The importance of environmental protection was also stressed at the recent Security Council meeting dedicated to the development of the Russian Arctic.
I would like to reiterate that all work, all programmes and projects planned for this area should primarily pursue a balance between economic activity and preservation of the environment, should take into consideration the age-old culture and the needs of the indigenous peoples of the North.
As I have said, this can only be done in close cooperation with researchers and environmentalists, with proper scientific support. The state, the business community and experts should maintain close constructive dialogue that should bring results. We have good examples of fruitful cooperation between business and environmental organisations. However, this approach should become part of the system and be applied nationwide. Today we will see how this can be achieved.
Thank you for your attention.
Vladimir Putin: Friends and colleagues, there has been a great deal of talk about developing the Arctic. Unfortunately, there has also been a lot of speculation and even provocations. However, you and I, we understand that humanity has to work in the Arctic; it is forced to develop these territories. Given this understanding, we should not allow any mistakes; we must approach this work with utmost responsibility and treat the environment with respect. Since we understand that we have to work there and develop these territories, we should do this in a professional manner and we should have timely discussions of the problems that need to be resolved, so that the work is implemented at the highest possible level, using the most up-to-date technologies.
I would like to say that this is a roundtable discussion and we did not envisage any final resolutions. However, I would like to assure you that my colleagues and I will consider how to document the ideas voiced here so that they are not forgotten, so that they are reflected in the practical work of the Russian Government.
We are grateful to our foreign colleagues who have joined us today to hear and even take part in the discussion. We wanted you to see how these issues are approached in Russia, so you become part of this process as our partners and understand the level of discussion that is taking shape in society and among experts, including not only your colleagues, oil and gas producers, but also the experts and representatives of environmental movements and organisations.
This is a very important and sensitive area, but, as I have said, neither humanity at large nor this country, which has enormous resources in this area, can bypass this issue.
I would like to thank you all for the work we did today, for this meeting, and to express the hope that we will continue working in the same calm, business-like and involved fashion.
Thank you very much.