Rashid Ismailov: "The basic message to business is to be environmentally responsible"
Vestnik Kavkaza’s guest is the chairman of the Russian public organization Russian Ecological Society, Rashid Ismailov.
-The Russian Ecological Society was created about two years ago. What was achieved during this time?
- We are growing. Now we already have 65 regional offices, but this is not an indicator - statistics is not our goal. The organization’s agenda was proposed by the government of the Russian Federation, the Ministry of Natural Resources of Russia, and it is linked to the National Project Ecology. The focus of our attention is the implementation of state policy. All major socio-economic areas are now being implemented through national projects. Ecology is no exception. This is a major and sensitive topic in the news - garbage, air, floods, climate change. We are official participants of the National Project Ecology, we are responsible for the scientific and expert support of the project, for public control and sociology. We implement these tasks in the regions, create platforms for scientific and expert support, conclude agreements with federal and state universities, attract the parliaments of the republics, and the legislative assemblies of the regions. It is a combination of public and parliamentary control.
One of the directions of our work is the prevention of social and environmental conflicts. We have created an information portal, a mechanism of social control - Map of social and environmental conflicts. On this map, any citizen of the Russian Federation can put his own flashpoint. I will be happy when not a single point remains on the map. It is important to prevent the conflict in its infancy when it has not reached its climax.
- What is the conflict prevention mechanism?
- Our information portal allows you to disclose information, publish it officially, convey to the media and public. Thus, we take the first step towards eliminating the conflict. Many socio-environmental conflicts are latent. They are not visible, they are not discussed. Regional authorities are trying not to bring the problem to the federal level, thus not provoking negative attitude towards the activities of the head of the region. We bring such situations out of the shadows, and then we start to work at those locations, where the problems arise. Moreover, a conflict is not just garbage that needs to be removed, a conflict is a crisis of relations when authorities, society, population and business cannot find a common language, cannot agree. We carry out the so-called environmental mediation, create dialogue platforms, allow the parties to negotiate. There is a set of techniques, tools, mechanisms that are being developed, including scientific as well.
We now have about 60 such flashpoints, and still, there are more conflicts. We watch the news, monitor news feeds, Telegram-channels. I have my own Telegram channel. It is interesting not from the point of view of insider information or rumors, but because of the cases that I share with my readers. Flashpoints appear every day in Telegram channels and in the information space. When people provide us with this information, it is pre-moderated and posted on the site. The pre-moderation is obligatory since there are many speculations and various unfair actions in the environmental field. There is customized news, there is competition between businesses when two companies use ecology as a tool for unfair competition. We have it all filtered. Administrators are seriously monitoring the situation in order to understand that there is a conflict that should be mediated.
- How is green diplomacy being promoted?
- This is an essential part of our work. Only now we gradually realize its great potential. The green diplomacy is soft power, something that allows us to negotiate by creating channels through which we can communicate and reduce the degree of tension with our neighbors from near and far abroad. The foreign policy conjuncture is largely complicated by contradictions with our partners, and we use green diplomacy and establish humanitarian ties in terms of ecology. Environmental issues are of concern to us all. It is impossible to draw a border by air or by water. We cooperate with the countries of the former USSR, as well as Abkhazia, and our cooperation is humanitarian in nature. Now there are many global challenges - climate change, melting of the Arctic zone, rising temperatures. These issues have serious consequences, but many underestimate them.
- What is your opinion on the fact that the Earth will change drastically in 30 years?
- We are realists and rely on the scientific base, scientific research. The situation is not critical, but the issue should be monitored. We are talking about future generations, about the future of our planet. Today we need to work to keep the planet in a more or less normal, stable state in 50-100 years. These are sustainable development goals set by the UN. Together with Vyacheslav Fetisov, a renowned hockey player, the UN Goodwill Ambassador for the Arctic and Antarctic, we are now creating an agenda related to this region, as well as working with young people on issues related to expanding our activities in the world. Fetisov is a globally minded person, and his authority allows us to raise environmental issues to the level of a global scale.
We became official representatives of the UNEP (United Nations Environment Program) in Russia. This initiative is associated with clean air and is called Breathe Life. We are now selecting participants, many cities have already given their consent. We have official support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which gives a high assessment of the green diplomacy achievements.
- Do you work in the Caucasus?
- The whole of the North Caucasus Federal District is on our agenda; we actively moderate the environmental agenda there. The Russian Ecological Society is a federal structure, but we also created a group with a focus on the Caucasus, not only the Northern but also the Southern. We are establishing cooperation with Azerbaijan, and the ambassador of the country, Polad Bulbul oglu, helps us. We hope to cooperate with Georgia on the Terek conservation program. This is the problem of the whole Caucasus. In the framework of the project, we involve all interested organizations and entire states in our green diplomacy.
The situation in the Caspian region is also connected with the Caucasus. We are promoting the Caspian Green Standard Initiative, although, unfortunately, not all are interested in this document. We discussed this issue with our colleagues from Turkmenistan, they liked this idea, and they want to include it in the agenda of the economic forum.
- What are the provisions of the Caspian Green Standard?
- The declarative commitment implies observance of certain enforced requirements in terms of ecology. This is not only related to technology - it is not necessary to take responsibility for using the best, very expensive technologies. Let there be a declaration first. In this document, there is not only a technological part but also a managerial one. It is necessary to be environmentally open, to involve public organizations, NGOs in the implementation of environmental policy. If we are talking about business, it means that investment projects need to include sections with increased requirements in terms of ecology. A small set of such requirements is included in this green standard. It is a basic level. We hope that everyone who signs this document can bring something new to it. I want us to be conscious of all environmental issues. It is necessary to change the thinking of every person and business circles, managers of large companies. Any entrepreneur must be environmentally responsible. This is the basic message to the business - to be environmentally responsible.
- You have mentioned Azerbaijan. How do you assess Leyla Aliyeva’s efforts to preserve the natural wealth of the Caspian region?
- I can only applaud. She works very well with young people. Today’s youth is focused on the future, versed in technology and gadgets. Many young people are focused on a healthy lifestyle, on a healthy diet, and behind all this is the ecological environment. Young people should not just contemplate passively, but act to preserve the environment, they need to do so for themselves. Leila is doing a great job by working with eco-activists. It is necessary to enforce the correct, positive green agenda. This is a theory of small deeds - think globally, act locally. Modern young people are active, they need actions and events.
Our people are not indifferent, they are ready to defend their interests in a civilized manner. We should avoid excesses, because now in the regions, some use environmental issues to promote themselves. Therefore, professional control is needed. Any object that is built, projected, must pass the verification of society. There must be a social license. Any construction, any object must pass public recognition and admission.
- What projects are planned in the Caucasus?
- Recently, a Forum on Sustainable Development was held, which exposed many problems. Together with our colleagues from the NCFD we have created a group that includes ministers from all republics, deputies, and heads of scientific institutions and state universities. They are enthusiastic and understanding, they realize that we have to do specific things. The potential of the environmental agenda in the Caucasus is yet to be realized and revealed. There are a lot of things to be worked out. We invite people with active citizenship, especially in terms of ecology for cooperation.