President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Kozlov, let us start by discussing the implementation of the Clean Air and Clean Country projects. I know that you are resolving some issues with this, even earlier than planned? Is that right?
Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Alexander Kozlov: Thank you, Mr President.
If I may, I would like to conduct a presentation.
I would like to thank you for supporting our nature conservation issues. We are trying to balance economic development and environmental protection, and we are accomplishing this with your assistance.
We are mainly working with the legal framework in order to maintain environmental safety. Quality is our principle. We do not need huge piles of documents, and it is important that legal regulation should help preserve nature, and that it should not hamper the development of businesses.
Regarding major issues, the law on recreation on specially protected natural areas is entering into force. You noted this in your Address. This is a mechanism for collaboration among investors in designated tourist areas. I would like to remind you that it is possible to build nature trails, observation decks, hotels and cafes where we are ready to receive visitors on six million hectares out of a total of 75 million hectares. We have posted a substantial increase in tourist traffic, that is over ten million people, and this figure is going up by about 30 percent a year. I believe that this law is quite timely.
Under the so-called Usolye Law, those polluting the environment have to pay for this. We have been talking about this for a long time; every enterprise, especially a hazardous enterprise, has its own service life. In effect, we should think in advance of liquidating it, while it is still working and earning money for its shareholders. Otherwise, they abandon a bankrupt enterprise, and we will have to do all this at the expense of the state and the budget. It would be desirable to avoid this.
On October 1, the law on the General Cleaning federal project will come into effect. It defines the authority, procedure, assessment processes and methods for researching sites with accumulated environmental damage, after which each site is to be put in a triage queue for mitigation based on the accumulated damage. We will take the funding from an earlier resolution: these are “coloured” payments, something we also included in the law.
This is a very important issue, Mr President. For example, we received 2,000 applications from the regions on accumulated environmental damage sites, and we must sort through them in order to spend the money correctly and rationally, especially where this damage is hazardous to the population. So, our task is to empower Rosprirodnadzor and Rospotrebnadzor, via this draft law, so they can analyse and tell us: of these 2,000 sites, this one should have been restored yesterday, this one immediately (it must be done regardless of costs, otherwise people’s lives are at stake), and this one is just ugly to look at. But all the same, there must be a priority list, because this is a lot of money, and everyone needs to understand this.
The Extended Producer Responsibility Act has been passed. You also spoke about it in your address. The updated system of corporate responsibility for circulated packaging will come into effect on January 1, 2024. We fought for this document for three years; there was a big confrontation between different corporations. However, we need this law to require businesses to build their own processing facilities or to just pay an environmental fee to the state if they do not want to do it. We would use this revenue to create the infrastructure to process waste, in order to avoid taking it out of taxpayers’ pockets.
Next point, if I may.
Clean Air. We are ahead of schedule in 12 cities participating in the project. The total volume of hazardous pollutants has been lowered by 11 percent, and our plan was 8 percent. By the end of this year, there will be a cumulative decline of more than 12 percent, while the plan was 9. And according to the federal project, hazardous emissions in 12 cities need to be reduced by more than 20 percent by 2026 compared with 2017, when we began.
A lot of work to update manufacturing processes is being done by companies because most pollutants – 97 percent – come from them. Over the years we have had this project, they have invested a total of 470 billion rubles of their own money, replacing boilers, installing filters, and rebuilding workshops.
Twenty-nine other cities will be added to these 12 cities, and the targeted indicator for them is to halve emissions by 2030. These are mainly cities in the Siberian, Far Eastern, and Southern federal districts. The difference from the cities I previously listed is that these are not industrial centres. So, the level of pollution there is the result of coal-heating systems in private housing. The main emphasis will be to upgrade the local housing and utilities systems. We are now working up the estimates: these figures will be submitted to the Government.
As for the Clean Country federal project. We have already eliminated 74 of the most hazardous sites of accumulated harm. We will finish with four more this year: two landfills in the Moscow Region, a landfill in the Yaroslavl Region, and a tailing dump in Yakutia. As planned, by the end of next year we will get rid of all 88 hazardous sites, which will improve the environmental situation for seven million people. That is, by the end of 2024, we should remove 191 sites. As we understand, this will improve the lives of the 20 million people who live near these dumps.
After the completion of work at each site, we take soil samples and study them in laboratories in order to confirm the safety not by eye but by science. For us, this is a new area: the technologies that we use are different and sometimes are being tried out for the first time.
I would like to note the well-coordinated work with the responsible Deputy Prime Minister, Viktoria Abramchenko: she is in charge of this issue and holds monthly meetings with the governors who participate in this programme.
The General Cleaning project will follow Clean Country. It will come into force in October, and we are already working within the framework of the law that I told you about, where we will enable Rosprirodnadzor and Rospotrebnadzor to assess quality. We have already assessed 578 sites in an area inhabited by almost 13 million people. Mr President, taking this opportunity, I would like to thank our colleagues in your presence for this comprehensive examination.
You gave an instruction to increase federal investments in the exploration of Yakutia multiple times over; the head of the republic met with you. We must be prepared for the moment when the past inheritance is exhausted, and we still need to form stocks of scarce raw materials that were previously imported.
We have gone further and are carrying out similar work on promising projects in all the Far Eastern regions. We work according to logic: accelerating the involvement of sites transferred for use (this is where colleagues already have licenses, sometimes for ten years), licensing new sites that need to be put on the market, and increasing exploration.
For example, we have listed 93 promising long-term projects for Yakutia, including hydrocarbon, tungsten, graphite and diamond extraction sites. According to preliminary estimates, budgetary efficiency will exceed 2 trillion rubles when we launch all these projects. We have estimated Yakutia’s budgetary efficiency for a period of ten years, and for the other regions, three years. But we are compiling statistics for ten-year periods as well. We are ready to do this for Siberia as soon as we are done with the Far East.
Vladimir Putin: Is the projected budgetary efficiency for Magadan 187.2 billion?
Alexander Kozlov (Shows presentation): This highlights specific expenditures for every deposit. Here is the breakdown for Magadan, if we spend the money… I believe we shouldn’t be afraid of major spending, we should be afraid of low income. This shows Russia’s future incomes and jobs, because the deposits also become depleted. We are providing a detailed analysis for every deposit.
Vladimir Putin: This is a lot of work.
Alexander Kozlov: In conclusion, I would like to tell you about our successes in restoring the Persian leopard population. On July 14 and 22, we released two leopards into the wild; a female named Achipse and a male named Chilmas. We sent Achipse into the forests in the Caucasus Reserve, and Chilmas will live in the mountains of North Ossetia. They are brother and a sister, born two years ago at the Centre for Restoring the Persian Leopard Population in Sochi.
During this period, the centre prepared them for release using a unique methodology they developed. At the same time, two baby leopards were born a week prior to the release, thereby retaining the centre’s leopard population. They will also be raised under this special methodology, so they will be able to live in the wild in two years.
Today, ten leopards (minus those two) are living in the wild. The centre’s scientists want to increase the Caucasus population of these leopards to 50 individuals and stabilise it at this level.
Many felines, especially Alous and Cherry, who have given birth to 13 kittens are our main asset. Mr President, it was on your initiative that we brought Cherry from Iran and Alous from Turkmenistan. They are now past their reproductive age, and so we need new individuals from Iran and Turkmenistan. We would like to acquire two females and two males. It would be helpful if you mentioned this when meeting with the leaders of these countries.
Vladimir Putin: All right.
Alexander Kozlov: By the way, I would like to note that the centre’s scientists will come to Moscow this winter to take part in an educational programme at an exhibition forum at VDNKh. We will set up a large exhibit. We will display all of our achievements, and we will discuss the unique careers pursued by our specialists at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.
Mr President, I would like to invite you to visit our exhibition.