Medvedev urges global eco-disaster fund after oil spill
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Saturday called for a global fund to fight ecological catastrophes like the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, as he sought to burnish his credentials as a green leader.
Admitting that Russia itself was lagging behind other countries in its standards of environmental protection, he also said Russians should feel free to protest against the authorities on environmental issues.
Medvedev said that the oil spill from the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico -- the worst in US history -- had showed that the world had been unable to imagine the scale of such catastrophes.
He said a global fund was needed to insure and reinsure against the risk of such disasters "as in some cases the richest companies and even the big countries" would not have sufficient funds to fight their consequences.
World powers would put money into the global fund, he said in the statement, published via his video blog.
"I am proposing that Russia could put forward a corresponding initiative," Medvedev said. "I will raise the issue at the G20 summit" to be held in Canada later this month.
Medvedev admitted that the Soviet Union had left Russia a legacy of environmental problems, above all a colossal two billion tonnes in industrial waste and towns where the levels of pollution were dangerous for life.
But his support of protests was a rare encouragement by a Russian leader of dissent against the authorities, in a country that is still tightly controlled and opposition protests are frequently broken up by the police.
"Look at the experience of other countries. Caring for nature starts with every individual," Medvedev said.
"If people care for their own homes and environment then they will raise these issues with the authorities and not allow themselves to be driven into a dead end."
"And if necessary, they will raise up their voices in protest on this issue," he added.
Thousands of Russians protested this year over the reopening of a huge pulp and paper plant on the shores of Lake Baikal in Siberia which environmentalists have warned could ruin one of Russia's most precious ecosystems.
© 2010 AFP