Premier V.S. Chernomyrdin, Statement at the 19th Special Session of the UN General Assembly on Environmental Protection, 1997
First of all, Mr. President, we should like to extend our congratulations on your election to this important post. The Russian delegation shares the general desire for a productive session and will do everything possible to promote the successful conclusion of your important agenda objective.
Russia on the whole approves of the continuation of the implementation of the decisions of the UN conference on the environment and development of 1992. There has been a clearer identification of priority areas and pressing problems concerning the environment and in ensuring sustainable development. We already see in operation the global conventions drawn up in Rio de Janeiro on climate change and biodiversity, and conditions are being established for the launching of new mechanisms for international legal regulation in the area of the environment.
The concept of stable development adopted in Rio has been fleshed out through the holding of subsequent UN fora on problems of population, population centers, food security, social development, and enhancing the role of women. This has established a reliable foundation for global partnership for sustainable development.
Much has been done, but there have not yet been qualitative changes towards improving the earth’s ecology. There is still a threat of further deterioration of the state of the planet’s environment. This is shown by the assessments recently prepared by authoritative international organizations and research-scientific institutes on the ecological situation in the world and future prospects, given the maintenance of present economic models.
The major challenge to sustainable development is being posed by technological innovations in economics in conditions of lightning globalization and growing human pressure on nature, while modern civilization has no alternative which could in fact replace the regulating mechanisms of the biosphere.
This forum must provide an impetus to stimulate international environmental cooperation. It must focus on the elimination of existing gaps and shortcomings. These include the establishment of the best possible conditions for the transfer of ecologically safe
technologies, more stable and predictable availability of resources to environmental projects, the development of work to produce a convention on the preservation and rational use of forest resources, etc.
Russia in today’s difficult conditions is doing all in its power to support the efforts of the international community to resolve these high priority global problems. An edict of the President of the Russian Federation, Boris Yeltsin, of 1 April 1996 defines the substance of our concept of the country’s transition to sustainable development. We are strictly complying with the convention on climate change and the preservation of biological diversity, and are actively participating in other international efforts to realize the concept and practice of sustainable development.
The foundation of our approach to sustainable development stems from Russia’s special responsibility for the ecology of the planet. Our impact on the global environment is extremely significant on an absolute scale, and also regarding the results produced as compared to other technologically advanced states. Russia possesses the largest mass of natural ecosystems on the planet, which act as a reserve for the stability of the global biosphere.
The transition of our country to a market economic system and the fundamental efforts at bringing about the social transformation of society allow for increased responsibility for the state of the environment during the process of the implementation of economic reform, for a more flexible combination of measures of state regulation with economic mechanisms.
We attach great significance to the strengthening of cooperation to counteract the depletion of the earth’s ozone layer, which is fraught with tragic dramatic consequences for mankind and for the biosphere.
Russia is interested in full-fledged participation in the Convention against desertification. Practical measures here will follow after the drawing up and adoption of an additional annex to the Convention, reflecting the specific conditions of countries with a transition economy.
We believe that the time is ripe to begin immediately the negotiating process to produce an international-legal instrument on forests. We are aware of the consequences of damage caused by the squandering of natural resources and therefore believe that a highest priority objective is the restructuring of the energy sector.
As a country with forests which account for one-fifth of all the large forests of the earth, Russia is extremely concerned for the rational use of and preservation of forests for the needs of our
descendants and for all mankind. Forests are not only a resource for economic development but also the “lungs” which absorb, inter alia, those very gases which cause the greenhouse effect and threaten to destabilize the climate system.
Attention must also be paid to such fundamentally important questions as the quality of global drinking water resources; the preservation of the ecosystems of the World ocean; the comprehensive development of energy resources and ecological transportation; urbanization and food security.
We understand that all these problems cannot be solved right away, but our joint effectiveness can and must be stepped up through full and rigorous concern for the interests and genuine potential of all groups of states.
Thank you, Mr. President.