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10 june 2019
On June 10, 2019, a roundtable was held in the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation titled How to Engage the General Public in Environmental Protection. The event was organized by the Commission on Ecology and Environmental Protection of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, the European Union and WWF, the global conservation organization.

As part of the roundtable, WWF-Russia unveiled its project aimed at reinforcing the dialog between the business, the state and the society. The program is focused on two environmental challenges: protecting forests and reducing air and water pollution.

"We are here to launch the new WWF Russia project on environmental protection in the Russian Federation.The European Union is proud to provide most of the funding for this large-scale project that will span over the course of three years in three ecoregions of the Caucasus, the Altai-Sayan and Russia's Far East," said Aleska Simkic, Deputy Head of the European Union Delegation to the Russian Federation. The diplomat pointed out that the environmental protection concerns the entire international community, and that is where the interests of both the European Union and the Russian Federation align. "Ladies and gentlemen, Russia and the European Union are neighbors, and what is beneficial to Russia's environment is equally beneficial to the EU nature and vice versa," emphasized Simkic.

Valery Yakhontov, member of the Commission on Ecology and Environmental Protection of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, brought to notice an important recent event where the President of the Russian Federation expressed his appreciation to WWF. "It is really great to see caring people and organizations take a most active and enterprising part in improving the state of the natural environment, increasing biodiversity and maintaining decent living conditions for all of us," added Yakhontov.

The forest part of the project is dedicated to preventing degradation and illegal forest exploitation. It will be focused on three directions: monitoring forest harvesting for legality (the Caucasus and the Altai-Sayan regions), fighting forest fires and ensuring their prevention (the Altai-Sayan region), sustainable forestry (Russia's Far East).  The authors of the project see its aim not just in demonstrating cutting-edge forest management methods. The ecologists are also convinced that it is of importance to assist the government in engaging local residents in monitoring and fighting forest fires, including those in the conservation areas. Special equipment will be purchased to fight fires as part of the project. WWF also plans to engage local residents in monitoring the illegal felling.

The efforts in reducing air and water pollution will be focused on reinforcing the dialog with the companies from those industries that have the most significant environmental impact, i.e. oil and gas, mining, metallurgy and electricity production. "It is obvious that Russia's economy remains resource-based, with the EU being one of its largest partners. However, consumers and investors now pay more and more attention to how sustainable the extraction methods are. Russian citizens in their turn are concerned with the state of the environment in the area they live in," said Mikhail Babenko, Director of the Green Economy program at WWF-Russia. "The Fund has established a constructive dialog with most of the companies at their HQ level, however the pollution takes place in the regions where they operate and it is there that the solutions should be sought for."  

The expert also noted that the conflicts often flare up due to either lack of information or its misinterpretation, for which reason it is crucial to find ways of efficient interaction between business and environmental organizations.

An online platform for sharing initiatives shall be one of the program's tools, a place where environmental organizations and activists can present their projects and tell others about their implementation.  

A number of methods and approaches will be applied in this project for the first time. Among these are public verification of non-financial reporting, environmental transparency rating of electricity generating companies and the use of digital technologies in environmental impact monitoring. The experience gained through fine-tuning these methods can later be used in other regions and industries as part of Russia's Ecology National Project.

 Photo in the caption by: (c) Olga Pegova / WWF Russia


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