Environmental Groups Release Study

Russia's environmental footprint could soon surpass the capacity of its natural resources, an international environmental study has found.

The Living Planet report, by the World Wildlife Fund and the Global Footprint Network, has evaluated the global environmental costs of human development as exceeding the world's capacity to regenerate by 30 percent.

Russia's natural resources comprise 8.7 percent of the world's biological reserve. It is one of five states with considerable biological wealth calculated to be greater than its environmental footprint.

That advantage is likely to disappear in a matter of years if the current model of economic development is maintained, experts said Wednesday at a press conference to release the report.

"Russia's resources remain vast and don't provide an incentive to treat them carefully," said WWF's Yevgeny Shvarts.

Russia's environmental footprint of 3.7 hectares per person is ranked 36th. The ranking takes into account the amount of biologically productive land and water necessary for a country's output, ability to absorb waste and the energy needed to develop infrastructure. The United Arab Emirates has the largest per capita footprint of nearly 9.5 hectares, while the world average is 2.7.

If Russia continues to consume and extract resources at its current rate, it will become one of the countries living beyond its means by 2020, said Dmitry Zamolodchikov, an ecology professor at the Moscow State University.

In a possible sign that the country's leaders might increase their attention to the problem, President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday that business and civil society must not allow the world financial crisis to weaken attention to ecology, Itar-Tass reported.

"We must maintain control over this problem," he said in a meeting with Natural Resources and Environment Minister Yury Trutnev. "Even in times when business has fewer opportunities, they should develop new, ecologically sound production facilities and ... lower their emissions."