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At this year's World Economic Forum in Davos, which closed its doors yesterday, one of the hot debates was that capitalism, in its current form, no longer fits the world around us. An obvious example of capitalism going in the wrong direction is the project plan of the Russian state company OJSC "Northern Caucasus Resorts" to turn the Northern Caucasus Region into a $15 billion tourism cluster area, covered by a network of high-end mountain ski resorts.
The quest for European and Asian investors was kicked-off with a presentation event a year ago in Davos, and still is in full swing.
The five new mountain ski resorts, with a total area of 2,500 km, are to be located in six Republics of the Northern Caucasus, a region of high ecological value, but also affected by many strains and conflicts. The leaked project plans of four out of the five new ski resorts illustrate that the project perimeters overlap with the "Western Caucasus" UNESCO
World Natural Heritage territory, four nature reserves and two national parks, where "constructions" of any tourist infrastructures is illegal or strictly limited according to Russian federal nature protection legislation.
In order to legalize the dodgy plans of OJSC "Northern Caucasus Resorts", the Russian government has started a process of overruling and undermining existing federal regulations on nature protection. This will have a huge negative impact on more than forty nature reserves and protected areas all over the vast territory of Russia.
This is yet another sad case of how the present Russian government, ruled by bad governance, is willing to take big steps back regarding nature protection as well as environmental and social justice, for the sake of "fast-tracking" economic development which is only beneficial to a small elite.
Ahead of any other foreign investors, Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations (CDC), a French state-owned group and long-term investor that is supposed to be serving the public interest and the goal of sustainable development, signed an agreement for the creation of a joint venture "France-Caucase" with OJSC "Northern Caucasus Resorts". The objective is to funnel advanced French technical, legal, planning and environmental expertise as well as direct investment for the creation of a ski lift, hotel, airport, mountain tunnel and other construction projects (from a wide range of French companies.).
However, CDC and other foreign investors are risking becoming accomplices to a huge-scale unsustainable project, in violation of Russian federal environmental law and international law (Convention for the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage), and would also be non-compliance with their own sustainability policies as well as International Sustainable Finance Standards, e.g. UN Principles for Responsible Investment.
Greenpeace and other NGOs are by no means against tourism development in the Caucasus, we welcome a truly socially and ecologically sustainable tourism. However, sustainability requires that none of the existing protection areas and none of Russia's existing nature protection laws will be narrowed in any possible way. This region does offer opportunities for tourism development without creating social injustice and environmental damage to unique nature sites of global importance.
We call upon all investors to either ensure no undermining of Russian national nature protection legislation, no changes to existing nature protection area borders, no construction of tourism buildings or other infrastructure inside protected areas, core zones of national parks and territory of the "Western Caucasus" UNESCO World Natural Heritage - or to disinvest.