Supreme Leader has lent new credibility and weight to the environment

The head of the Environment Protection Organization has said that if the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is implemented properly, Iran will have more cooperation with other nations on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

The director of the Environment Protection Organization has said that the macro policies of the environment sector the Supreme Leader has just communicated are highly clear, precise and up-to-date.

Masoumeh Ebtekar made the remark in an exclusive interview with Iran newspaper following the announcement of the country’s environment policies by the Supreme Leader and hailed these policies – which were introduced in the build-up to the formulation of the Sixth National Development Plan – as a boon for the country’s environment. [The environment chief has since thanked the Supreme Leader, in a letter, for communication of the environment policies].

The following is the translation of what Ebtekar told Iran:

Q: The Supreme Leader has had a meticulous, in-depth look at the general policies of the environment ….

A: Yes, that the Supreme Leader – who is the highest ranking official in the country – has communicated very clear, precise and up-to-date policies is an important event in Iran. I thank the Leader because his communication came at the right time, and it coincided with the drafting of the Sixth Development Plan. It can be helpful in many areas.

With the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21 or CMP 11) in Paris [November 30-December 11] approaching, these policies will clarify Iran’s stance [on the environment].

Q: Unlike a barrage of criticism leveled at you for the involvement of the ambassadors and ministers from other countries in the environmental issues, the Supreme Leader has placed special emphasis on efforts to shore up environmental diplomacy to tap into international incentives and opportunities to move toward a low-carbon economy [(LCE) or decarbonized economy]….

A: Despite certain strange critical remarks, the Supreme Leader approved of such diplomacy. Since day one, the eleventh government has given top priority to diplomacy. From the beginning, we were seeking to improve environmental ties with our neighbors, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Armenia and Turkmenistan.

We had productive meetings in Iraq on the question of dust particles, but the fact is that developments inside Iraq took the country toward issues other than the environment and made us unable to implement our plans.

In Afghanistan, we held talks with President Ashraf Ghani, the country’s highest-ranking official, about Hamoon. In Armenia, we held talks over the pollution of the Aras River and our proposal to build the inter-border Peace and Friendship Park was welcomed by Yerevan.

We also held talks and reached an agreement with the Persian Gulf countries, including Kuwait. Of course, insecurity which has gripped the region interferes with our measures.

Q: The Supreme Leader has underlined the effective utilization of international incentives and opportunities, and development of the related technologies and innovations. [By international] it seems other nations in addition to the Asian and Middle Eastern countries have been taken into account …

A: [To that end] I visited Rome, and my Italian counterpart had a trip to Tehran. We have had constructive cooperation with France, Poland, Finland, Norway, etc. Last week, we held specialized training on environmental technologies on the oil front in cooperation with Norway.

Q: How much has the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action affected such cooperation?

A: JCPOA has multiple effects. Last week we announced that Iran will have a four percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions with no strings attached and that the country has tied an eight percent cut to the termination of sanctions and the correct implementation of JCPOA. If the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is implemented properly, Iran will have more cooperation in this regard.

Q: The Supreme Leader has underscored the establishment of a national, integrated environment system, something the experts have described as the missing link in the [roadmap of] sustainable development. What is your take on an integrated system?

A: Currently, such an integrated system has emerged in the Supreme Environment Council led by the president. Two government branches are represented in this council and we are trying to bring on board a representative from the Judiciary.

What is certain is the fact that coordination among different branches is key to establishing a national integrated system in the area of environment. We have good cooperation with the Judiciary. On Monday we had a meeting with judges, prosecutors and court officials in Shiraz.

They are moving toward reducing prison terms and replacing them with environment-centered punishments. They asked us to put forward our proposals on cutting prison terms.

Q: It was a while ago that you – for the first time – introduced a plan to treat environmental offenders as criminals. It is now one of the main articles of the general policies announced by the Supreme Leader who has called for fitting and preventive punishments to be handed down to those who contaminate or destroy the environment. The Supreme Leader has also appealed for measures to force these individuals to make up for the loss they make to the environment …

A: In his remarks on March 8, 2015, the Supreme Leader paid special attention to legal questions and the Judiciary. We cannot look the other way so that some proceed with measures such as land grab and reclamation, destruction of natural resources, poaching and smuggling, air pollution and soil contamination. These are public rights and public assets. In line with the Leader’s views, we need to pay special attention to these issues ….

Q: The Supreme Leader’s remarks have drawn an accurate, detailed roadmap of environmental responsibilities of all [people and officials]. How do you evaluate the status of the environment after the announcement of these macro policies?

A: They will definitely empower the environment and will cement its position. We are now walking down the same path. The environment [organization] has displayed its might and cohesion, but it needs to reach a point where it has the final say.

Under the eleventh government, we have made comments [on the environment]. When we prevented the construction of a road which was supposed to lead to Abr Forests [in the north of Shahrood in Semnan Province], pressures piled up on the environment [protection organization] and [those favoring the Abr road construction] went as far as to call for the dissolution of the Environment Protection Organization.

My organization came under pressure when we tried to stop the production of low-quality gasoline in the country.

Q: The Supreme Leader’s warnings about the environmental situation in Iran increased during the tenth government, and now the Leader has expanded his supervision of the environment issue.

A: This question is given added weight when we learn that not everything is rosy in the country and the environment is not the only issue. We are now experiencing difficult economic conditions. The country is going through the peak of economic crises such as unemployment and social ills. Right at this time, the Leader provides all parts of the establishment with a roadmap, because he wants to see well-balanced development [in the country].

Q: The Supreme Leader communicated the general policies of the environment sector after consulting with the Expediency Council. The experts of the Expediency Council go into detail about the issues. How has the Environment Protection Organization benefited from such cooperation?

A: Over the years, the government has had good cooperation with the Expediency Council. The Council plays a powerful, consultative role and gives expert views on issues.

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