Russia suggests oil firm levy for pollution fund

TORONTO (Reuters) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called on Sunday for a special levy on oil companies to finance a fund to help clean up environmental disasters such as BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Medvedev, who heads the world’s biggest energy producer, made a proposal for a global pollution fund at the Group of 20 summit in Toronto. He said G20 leaders had asked experts to work on the idea.

“One of the ideas, which still needs discussion, is for dues from major international companies which produce oil to be placed into a special consolidated fund or, and perhaps together with that, for the insurance of such risks paid for by those corresponding dues,” Medvedev told reporters.

Russia has paid close attention to BP’s reaction to the Gulf spill, the largest in U.S. history, partly because 25 percent of the British energy giant’s global output comes from its Moscow-based TNK-BP joint venture.

The G20 rich and emerging economies called for oil companies to ensure rules were followed to prevent such oil spills in the future.

“Following the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, we recognize the need to share best practices to protect the marine environment, prevent accidents related to offshore exploration and development, as well as transportation, and deal with their consequences,” G20 leaders said in a communique.

Medvedev said Russia was ready to introduce pollution legislation in the lower house of parliament, the Duma, to protect its coast from oil spills, which environmentalists say routinely destroy the environment in Russia.

“So as to set an example, Russia is prepared to send to the Duma a special bill on the defense of the sea from oil pollution,” Medvedev said. He gave no further details.

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Peter Cooney