Activities in the Arctic and Barents Regions

Nefco has contributed to cooperation on climate and environment in the Arctic and Barents Regions since 2005.

All activities in the Arctic and Barents Regions on indefinite hold

Due to Russia’s illegal, full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, all three programmes in the Arctic and Barents Regions that involved cooperation between Nefco and Russia are on indefinite hold. Read more about how Nefco has adopted the EU sanctions towards Russia.

The Arctic Council Project Support Instrument (PSI)

The Arctic Council Project Support Instrument (PSI) activities were aimed at preventing and mitigating pollution in the Arctic region.

The PSI financing has been used for project preparation activities, such as project identification and concept development, pre-feasibility studies, environmental impact assessments, business and financing plans, preparation of tender documents, tendering and evaluation. Also, specific measures in the implementation phase of pilot and demonstration projects, including supplies of equipment and services, may have been financed.

In total approx. 30 projects were financed by the instrument and 13 completed projects.

Contributors were Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, the US, the Sami parliament of Norway, the Nordic Environment Development Fund, the Nordic Council of Ministers and Nefco. Nefco has acted as fund manager.

PSI financing was available to project proposals initiated and approved by all Arctic Council working groups.

The Barents Hot Spots Facility

Since the early 1990s and until Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Nefco actively supported actions and provided funding for activities related to climate and environment in the Barents. Nefco was the fund manager of the Barents Hot Spots Facility (BHSF) that has been the main provider of funding and financial support for this cooperation since 2005.

The Barents Region covers the northernmost part of Europe – in Russia and the Nordic countries of Finland, Norway and Sweden. Cooperation in the Barents Euro-Arctic Region works on two levels: inter-governmentally and inter-regionally. The Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC) was the forum gathering the Barents countries and regional authorities to promote stability and sustainable development in the Region.

The Barents Hot Spots Facility (BHSF) was set up by the Nordic countries for providing support and financing technical assistance to address hot spots and other issues of similar dignity in the Russian Barents regions. As BHSF is not primarily a source for financing of actual project implementation, but for project preparation, support was typically provided as grants for sector studies and inventories, key pre-feasibility and feasibility studies, business and financing plans, or environmental impact assessments. However, funding was also provided in some cases for small key demonstrations or pilot investments.

Environmental Hot Spots have been a central concept for the Barents cooperation. Nefco and the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) mapped out 42 hot spots in the Barents Region defining issues and sites that pose both environmental and health risks and require specific measures of protection and action in the Russian part of the Barents region:

  • Murmansk Oblast
  • Arkhangelsk Oblast
  • Republic of Karelia
  • Komi Republic, and
  • Nenets Autonomous Area

Nefco and the Barents Region

Since the Barents Hot Spots Facility became operational, Nefco has used the BHSF and other funds to promote over 80 specific actions related to the hot spots and other major environmental issues in the region, including inventories, reports, technical assistance, project development as well as actual pilot and demonstration projects in all Barents regions in Russia. The supported activities addressed a wide range of concerns for the climate and environment such as municipal water and wastewater, management of solid and hazardous waste (including medical waste), promotion of clean and sustainable energy, past environmental liabilities (including oil pollution), industrial pollution and issues related to biodiversity and forestry and to combat Black Carbon.

Over the years, Nefco has contributed to the cooperation on climate and environment in the Barents region, in particular related to the hot spots:

  • First Nefco report defining Barents hot spots in 1995;
  • Nefco/AMAP Report establishing the list of 42 hot spots in 2003;
  • The Barents Hot Spots Information System (2007);
  • Elaboration of Procedures and Criteria on Exclusion (2010);
  • Assessment of the Barents Hot Spot Report (2013);
  • Hot Spots – “10-year report” (2013).

Nefco has also supported the development of institutions, systems and other innovative concepts that address the hot spots, in close cooperation with other partners and organisations.

The Barents Hot Spots Facility contributors were Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Nefco.

Nordic-Russian Programme for Environment and Climate Cooperation

The Nordic-Russian Programme for Environment and Climate cooperation (PECC), managed by Nefco, provided grant financing, with co-financing requirements, to encourage and promote Nordic-Russian non-commercial cooperation projects addressing environment and climate at regional and local levels in Northwest Russia. The programme formed part of the Nordic Council of Ministers’ (NCM) efforts as regards co-operation with Russia starting in 2016.

Due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, PECC was cancelled by the Nordic Council of Ministers and therefore financing through the programme is no longer available.

The purpose of the PECC programme was to contribute to an improved status of the environment and climate in Northwest Russia and indirectly lead to improvements in the Nordic and Baltic countries and the whole Barents Region by financially supporting the implementation of relevant cooperation projects at the regional and local levels in Northwest Russia, for instance, in the following fields:

  • Use of renewable energy sources
  • Energy saving and improved energy-efficiency
  • Cleaner production and sustainable consumption
  • Sustainable city and land-use planning
  • Protection of nature
  • Waste management and hazardous waste

The programme promoted the establishment of networks, exchange of experiences and capacity building and mutually benefitting cooperation in the field of environment and climate. Related support for investments in equipment, technology and infrastructure can also be included in the financing.

The first call for proposals, or PECC-1, was launched in spring 2017. In total, nine projects were implemented and completed by the end of 2018. Among the Nordic Lead Partners, Finnish organisations had four projects, Swedish organisations three, and Norwegian and Danish organisations one each. In terms of the types of entities, universities and research institutions were the most common types. Project activities were carried out in Arkhangelsk Oblast, the Komi Republic, Leningrad Oblast, Murmansk Oblast, the Republic of Karelia, and in St Petersburg. Several NGOs took an active part on the Russian side.

The programme was financed jointly by the Nordic Council of Ministers (NCM) and the Barents Hot Spots Facility (BHSF) and managed by Nefco.

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