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[IIASA News Release]

02.12.1996 - (idw) Internationales Institut für Angewandte Systemanalyse Laxenburg

IIASA News Release

Priority for Developing Russian Forest Sector Policy:

Russian policy makers stress cooperation with Forest Resource Study at IIASA

Laxenburg, Austria/Moscow, Russia - 2 December 1996 -

Collaboration between Russian government and international experts will produce new forest sector policies to revitalize the depressed Russian forest industry, improve environmental conditions, and raise the status of the forest sector within Russia. In a major step toward producing effective forest sector policy, high-level Russian government representatives met, in Moscow, with the international Forest Resources Project team from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and with its collaborators from many institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Russian Federal Service of Forest Management and others. The new policies will lay the foundation for improving socio-economic and environmental conditions in Russia and enhancing the positive contribution of the Russian forest sector to the global climate and market.

This joint effort is evidence of renewed Russian government priority regarding the nations forest sector and its importance in enhancing sustainable environmental and economic development. The transformation of the forest sector also plays a major role in Russias fulfillment of international environmental commitments, Alexandr Zaverjukha, Vice-Premier of the Russian Government, in a statement prepared for the meeting. Zaverjukha added, I am convinced that this joint activity will be instrumental in constructing policies to secure the sustainable development of the Russian forest sector and to promote further international cooperation in this field.

By implementing such policies, Russian decision makers can appease international critics and help the Russian people. Internal and international pressures have increased the urgency for the Russian government to take action regarding the countrys troubled forest sector which has faced diminishing commercial and industrial output, withering recreational and esthetic values due to pollution and conflicting regulations, and difficulties meeting international environmental standards.

Consequently, Vitali Parfenov, Deputy Head of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of the Russian Government, and other government representatives explicitly recognized the timeliness of this meeting and the need for international cooperation on these issues. Due to IIASAs strong tradition of productive and internationally collaborative contributions on Russian-related forest issues, Parfenov called on the Forest Resources Project (at IIASA) with its many Russian collaborators to contribute to Russian forest sector policy development; thereby, acting as a catalyst in its transition to sustainable development.

Deputy Minister Evsjukov from the Ministry of Economics also emphasized, the high priority the Russian government was giving the forest sector in recognition of its importance in the transition of the Russian economy. Evsjukov added, There is a fundamental need for establishing coordinated policies in the forest sector.

With the approval of Russian government representatives, Sten Nilsson, Leader of the Forest Resources Project, and Alexandr Isaev, the Projects chief Russian collaborator, plan a three-stage approach to developing policies for sustainable development of the Russian forest sector:

1. An immediate policy document emphasizing the need to enhance the status of the forest sector in response to the Russian Presidential Decree on Sustainable Development: In the next two months, the Forest Resources Project and Russian collaborators will provide Russian decision makers with principles necessary for the sustainable development of the forest sector. These principles will indicate the overall economic and environmental potential of the forest sector and will provide the basis for interministerial discussion.

2. Setting and augmenting priorities of sustainable development issues and identifying priorities to reverse unsustainable trends in the forest sector: This component will utilize IIASAs unique collection of data and analysis combined with the Russian collaborators expertise on the (regional) characteristics of the Russian conditions to provide input for stage three and to provide alternatives to Russian policy makers regarding the development of Russian forests and forest industry in the medium-term.

3. Constructing long-term policies for the complete transformation of the Russian forest sector to sustainable development: This long-term activity will be based on nation-wide policy exercises organized with the support of the Russian government by the IIASA Russian network and will participants from government, industry and science. The new policies for sustainable development of the forest sector will be delivered directly to Russian policy makers. The policies will be flexible and adaptable to changing socio-economic and environmental conditions and advances, particularly with respect to the forest industry.

Each phase will form the basis for the subsequent phase. IIASA/Russian cooperation is essential for formulating effective and implementable policies by this process. Russian government officials welcome the impartiality and objectivity of IIASAs international, interdisciplinary input.

IIASA News Backgrounder

Decision Time for Russian Forest Sector Policy

IIASA study reveals economic and environmental effects at stake

Moscow, Russia/Laxenburg, Austria - 2 December 1996 -

Long-term and effective forest management practices and forest sector policies are needed. If nothing is done, the forestry industry can collapse. These interim findings are part of a continuing study conducted by the Forest Resources Project at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenburg, Austria, with the collaboration of many Russian institutes belonging to the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Russian Federal Forest Service and others.

Russia possesses an impressive percentage of the worlds forests. This resources environmental and commercial importance extends beyond the borders of Russia to the global climate and economy. But during the transition to a market economy, conflicting policies and inadequate controls have led to abuse and exploitation of resources. Forests are no exception. "Fundamental issues of survival face the Russian forest sector. Securing sustainable development of Russian forests and the forest industry while simultaneously nurturing improved socio-economic conditions calls for adopting necessary policies without delay, states Professor Sten Nilsson, Project Leader.

Based on its own unique comprehensive data collected from Russian contributions and integrated assessment analyses, the IIASA Project has completed an unparalleled account of the status of the Russian forest sector. Selected results show that:

- current, overly complex forest legislation is still based on centrally planned principles it does not cover all functions of forest resources, there is a lack of mechanisms for implementation, and it is riddled by contradictions due to non-forest sector regulations;

- mature growing stock of forests under state management is declining substantially;

- between 1990 and 1994, Russian forest sector output fell by 55 percent, domestic consumption of forest products declined by 60 percent, commercial harvest dropped 68 percent with greater declines in Asian Russia than in European Russia and production of non-wood products fell;

- traditional export markets have all but disappeared in the Baltic states, the former COMECON partners, and the states of the former Soviet Union;

- dramatic increases in transportation costs have disadvantaged enterprises located in the center and east of the country;

- in 1994, wages in harvesting and woodworking industry were only 75 percent of the 1990 level;

- almost 10 percent of the Russian workforce could be directly and indirectly supported by activities in the forest sector, but unemployment has been steadily rising, especially in Asian Russia, implying high social costs in the future and potential migration problems;

- threats to forest biodiversity are high, mainly due to lack of protected areas and future careless timber exploitation, and many species are on the verge of becoming endangered, including those that serve medicinal (40 percent of medications used in Russia are of plant origin), nutritional, and commercial purposes;

- forest management affects emission of various gases from the soil that influence the greenhouse effect - Russian soils generate 3-10 percent of the global net annual methane exchange between the ground and the atmosphere; and,

- industrial centers cause air pollution that seriously damages at least 3.5 million hectares of forest (major pollutants are sulfur, nitrogen and heavy metals in areas such as Irkutsk region, Norilsk area, Ural and Altai Mountains, regions near Kazakstan, southern Far East, Sakhalin, etc.).

In summary, inefficient forest management, insufficient forest protection, substantial losses due to human activities, and huge losses of wood during harvests and processing due to inferior practices and technology are major problems that are intensified under present Russian economic conditions.

Nonetheless, the potential for the Russian forest sector is huge. Realizing this potential requires revised forest sector policies reflecting emerging environmental and economic values of today and tomorrow. This is where IIASA's Forest Resource Project continues to contribute. "Based on its previous work, the Project is poised to formulate implementable policies for the Russian forest sector," adds Nilsson.

In order to ensure that this collaborative international IIASA activity proceeds effectively, a meeting with high-level participants from the Russian government, the Russian Academy of Sciences, and other Russian institutions is scheduled for November 12-13 in Moscow. Together, this group is developing a formal working plan for the policy portion of the IIASA study. Different stakeholders in the Russian forest sector from various Russian regions will participate in the process to set the stage for policies that enable, promote, and ensure the implementation of sustainable management practices for Russian forest resources. If successful, the socio-economic situation can improve hand-in-hand with that of the environment. Integrated management can secure domestic growing stock and wood harvests as well as manufactured wood products for the international market, money for infrastructure and other investments, and forests rich in non-wood products with high recreational and environmental value.

The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (Laxenburg, Austria) is a non-governmental research institution sponsored by a consortium of National Member Organizations in 17 nations. The Institute's research focuses on sustainability and the human dimensions of global change. The studies are international and interdisciplinary, providing timely and relevant information and options for the scientific community, policy makers and the public.

For more information, please contact: Christoph Schneider Office of Public Information, IIASA, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria; phone: (+43 2236) 807 ext. 299; fax (+43 2236) 73 149; e-mail: schneid@iiasa.ac.at


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