The United Nations (UN) has given ten years to restore the planet. The Decade of Ecosystem Restoration was launched on the World Environment Day in June, 2021. Vyacheslav Fetisov, UN Goodwill Ambassador, Chairman of the All-Russian Society for Nature Conservation told EcoTourismExpert in his interview on the sidelines of the International Conference “Sustainable Tourism: Global Challenges and Russian Perspective” about the first steps in the implementation of the work planned. The traditional event took place at the Rosa Khutor Resort in Sochi.
Please tell us what is the main concept of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration that runs from 2021 to 2030?
- For a long time, all the people have been saying today that ecology, nature, climate, biodiversity is the basis for the future life. Unfortunately, until now, we were not so competent and often treated the environment in a barbarian way. Half the life on Earth has already been destroyed; naturally, such a situation leads to the accelerated degradation of everything connected with the future of our children. On the World Environment Day, António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, announced the decision to launch the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. As for the period of time, I think this is a very correct approach. Of course, the Year of the Family or the Year of Culture give certain results, but during such period of time, practically, nothing can be done. Today, the environmental problem exists, and when its solution is measured not by a year, but by a decade, it is possible to create the necessary conditions for the ecosystem restoration in the world during this time span. Naturally, there are many challenges. Most of them are related to climate change, for example, cancer has become “younger”, many children are allergic. This is explained by the quality of the food we eat and the quality of the air we breathe. Considering that the Russian Federation has the largest territory in the world, our country should support the UN initiative. The situation in the world depends on the ecological well-being of Russia and the country’s development, given that our country has the largest reserves of fresh water and minerals. During the decade, we will be able to get many processes up and running and put them on the road, including interdepartmental interaction. By joining our efforts, we will be able to create a national programme, give support to producers, businesses and regions that are thinking about preserving the environment. But the most important thing is to make the situation in the country safe for our future generations. Naturally, such initiatives will be of a global importance given that the practice of the Russian environmental science is decades long.
- Which of the world leaders have already supported the programme?
- The programme is being considered at all levels, it is an honour and correct to be among the leaders. Three big events have already been planned for the near future - in Glasgow, China, and Africa - to discuss the future, the rules of the game, and the interaction. They will help resolve these issues. I hope that these events will not be just regular ones “for the sake of the events”, but they will allow a roadmap to be determined as well as a perspective, which is most important. Hopefully, we will start taking concrete actions.
- You took part in the traditional International Conference “Sustainable Tourism: Global Challenges and Russian Perspective” held in Sochi. Has this topic been raised?
- Today, the ecosystem restoration is one of the main topics on the agenda. It is being raised by the Russian Government. Russian President Vladimir Putin clearly said at the Security Council meeting, “the environment was an important component of the development in terms of the national security”. This also directly relates to the food products that come from outside and used by our children. That is why the topic of the ecosystem restoration should be discussed at all conferences.
- Do the Russian businesses support the programme?
- About 8 years ago, I was very surprised to hear that Vladimir Potanin decided to invest in the modernization of manufacturing processes and equipment in Norilsk. At that time, this step was unusual and unexpected as no one thought about this. I was in Norilsk, saw how a so-called sulfur plant was being built, thanks to which the amount of emissions would be reduced by 90 percent. The Arctic will breathe better air. And not only the people in Norilsk, but in the entire Arctic region. Today, many Russian factories are switching to the “green standards”. They understand that otherwise, they will either pay huge fines or will have to leave the market as their products will not be in demand. We see what has been happening recently with the coal industry; today, global companies are not recommended to finance the coal industry. Therefore, Russia should participate in the development of the rules of the game as this relates to the development of the country. I can say for sure that half-hearted actions should not be taken against the violators. The All-Russian Society for Nature Conservation is now closely monitoring what is happening in each region, how public control is being established, how the authorities and violators react. The Russian President once remarked that whoever made a mess should clean up the mess, whoever spoiled something should fix it. Our country has a huge competitive advantage. In 1924, the All-Russian Society for Nature Conservation was established. Today, we have not only the area without which the world cannot do, but also the history. That is why Russia can take the initiative in the ecosystem restoration as the time has come to be the leader of the community in these efforts.
- Are the development of society and the nature conservation possible?
- Each time I fly to Sochi, I think about the time when I was the head of the country’s sports and was responsible for submitting and promoting the application to stage the Olympics. Right now, we are at the Rosa Khutor Resort, but in 2007, it was impossible to get here even by the best off-roaders. Today, it is the best example of a modern mountain resort that fully complies with the environmental requirements. And this is also a good example of a forward-looking approach to the development. Those who conceived this resort understood that if the environment was destroyed here, tourists just would not come to the Resort because its fresh air, snow, and the opportunity to improve the health were the Resort’s most important attractions. Today, tourism plays a huge role in the global development and many countries live off the tourism. But not Russia, despite the fact that there are tremendous opportunities for the development of ecological tourism in our country. The main thing is to urgently accept and respect the rules of the game, according to which it is necessary to develop this industry. In this regard, Russia’s potential is unlimited. I say this as an Ambassador of the World Tourism Organization, and we will do everything to promote the interests of our country on the world stage. We still do not completely understand the power and splendour of the land where we live. Therefore, I hope that the concrete steps will be taken after the Sochi’s conference, and the consciousness of people will start changing, which is most important. We will understand that respect for nature is an opportunity for our children and grandchildren to live. Things won’t be different. We have come to the point when nature requires this of us.