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Putin Pledges to Raise NGO Nuclear, Climate Concerns at G8 Summit

Environmental News Service

July 7, 2006

A ban on further development of nuclear power, and strict controls on greenhouse gas emissions linked to global warming were among the recommendations of some of the world's largest nongovernmental organizations in advance of the Group of Eight summit, which Russia will host July 15 to 17 in St. Petersburg. Russian President Vladimir Putin met with the NGOs and promised to bring their resolutions up for discussion at the G8 Summit.

The leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as the European Union, will be joining President Putin for Russia's debut G8 summit.

More than 100 nongovernmental organizations from around the world, some representing hundreds of other groups, held a two day forum in Moscow Monday and Tuesday by means of a process called the Civil Eight 2006 that is new this year to the G8 cycle of meetings.

The initiators of the Civil G8 2006 project were over 40 Russian nongovernmental organizations, and NGO communities from every continent were involved in its work.

Over 500 people, representing rights and advocacy organizations and civil society, including the International Socio-ecological Union, the United Nations, the Ford Foundation, Oxfam, Greenpeace, Amnesty International, Climate Action Network, Charities Aid Foundation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the World Wildlife Fund, the International Council of Women and many others, participated in the NGO forum.

Global energy security, prevention of global pandemics, efforts to curb HIV/AIDS, human rights, African trade and development, education, and intellectual property took center stage at the meeting.

The Civil G8 statement on global energy security began with the declaration that human combustion of fossil fuels is directly responsible for global warming and all its environmental consequences.

"Non-controlled growth of production, transportation and burning of fossil fuels has negative, oppressive impact to the environment, and results in negative anthropogenic climate change, growth of the related negative phenomena ? hurricanes, droughts, floods, avalanching, ablation of permafrost, etc., and thereby raises danger to stability of the global economics, life and health of humans," according to the statement.

The forum emphasized that nuclear power, while it does not emit the greenhouse gases, is not a climate change solution they can support. "In spite of different points of view, worded by participants of the round table," the Civil G8 said, "most of them consider that nuclear energy is not a stable way of the energy development, and insist on abandoning of nuclear energy use."

The forum expressed concern about radiation hazards, and possible releases of radiation during the transport, storage and processing of nuclear waste, and reactor dismantling.

They also fear the "possible interrelation of nuclear energy and distribution of nuclear weapons" especially in Third World countries. They recommend banning all trans-border transport of nuclear wastes, including spent nuclear fuels.

Meeting with the NGO forum participants July 4, Russian President Vladimir Putin was confronted with a group holding a banner reading, "No to nuclear power! No to nuclear power!?

Putin tolerated the demonstration, saying, "Let the people do their thing. We won't get in their way. They came here to make themselves heard, and we must give them that opportunity."

"I should also say immediately, and honestly, that some of your recommendations, and the documents that I have been able to review, will cause disputes within the G8. Of course," Putin said. "I am not sure that a hundred percent of everyone here would agree, say, that it is necessary to halt development of atomic energy, but I see that your documents do contain such a recommendation."

"It seems to me," said Putin, "that first we need to develop an alternative for the world, we need first to propose solutions, and then will be the time to cease development of atomic energy. Although it is certainly true that not everyone shares this opinion."

The Civil G8 say in their statement that there is a "crying need to change the prevailing energy paradigm, transfer to stable energy development in order to ensure global energy safety on the basis of energy saving and efficient use of new and renewable sources of fuel and power."

They would like to see power generation by biomass, coal gasification, wind, solar, tidal, geothermal power plants, dam-free hydroelectric power stations, and hydrogen energy.

Evgeny Shvarts, who chairs the Biodiversity Conservation Center of the Socio-Ecological Union, told the Civil G8 forum, "Energy security must necessarily include climate security. Based on this principle, we believe that the G8 countries must take the necessary measures to keep growth in average global temperature to a maximum of two degrees in comparison to pre-industrial levels."

"To do so, by 2050 we will need to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent in comparison with 1990 levels. And we absolutely believe that the G8 must accelerate implementation of the action plan approved at Gleneagles in order to ensure heightened energy efficiency, rapid development of renewable energy, and lowering of greenhouse gas emissions."

Putin responded, "Energy security must include environmental security, there are no disputes of problems in this regard."

Shvarts expressed the belief of forum participants that "in the year of the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster we have an obligation to demand that other G8 countries wind up their programs for construction of new active nuclear units, as atomic energy represents a non-sustainable path for development of energy."

Putin said that the G8 leaders have agreed to discuss nuclear energy at the Summit.

"The subject under discussion in Saint Petersburg in relation to atomic energy will not be development of atomic energy worldwide, but rather issues of ensuring the security of atomic energy," said Putin.

Because the Civil G8 forum recommends an end to nuclear power development, Putin said he would bring it up in St. Petersburg. "But I should tell you now," he said at the forum, "several of my colleagues have even been reluctant to discuss this topic on principle. Not because they are against security in nuclear energy, but owing to the rather harsh positions of non-governmental organizations in their countries with regard to this issue, they have not wanted even to touch on this matter. But I believe that this is wrong."

"While in France today 80 percent of generated electric power comes from nuclear energy, security of nuclear energy affects us all, even those countries that do not intend to develop nuclear energy - like Germany, which has adopted a resolution not to build any new nuclear plants," Putin said. "But security is something that affects everyone.

"We know this better than anyone else following the Chernobyl tragedy," he said. "Therefore, in the end everyone agreed that we should discuss problems of atomic energy security in Saint Petersburg."

The Civil G8 forum proposes the creation of a global monitoring system covering nuclear power plants, transportation and production of hydrocarbons, and space based equipment in order to prevent damage to the environment.

They recommend that an international system of mandatory insurance for environmental risks be developed and submitted to the United Nations for discussion by 2010.

They envision an insurance system that would provide financial compensation for damage to the health of the population as a result of "production, transportation and processing of hydrocarbon and nuclear materials, burial and processing of the wastes."

Putin promised that their recommendations would be considered by the G8 leaders. "Where in previous years these meetings with the leaders of nongovernmental organizations were limited in terms of participation," he said, "today, as you see, we have invited you for discussion as part of a far wider representative forum."

"I want to assure you that everything that you expound will, in essence, reach the G8 countries' heads, and that not only will we study them attentively, but we will also analyze them most critically, and will take them into account in making ultimate decisions," Putin pledged.

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