Environmental Hot Spots are high on the agenda of the Barents Cooperation

The environment continues to be a high priority for the Barents cooperation. Foreign Ministers of the four Barents countries – Finland, Norway, Russia and Sweden – emphasised this during the annual International Kirkenes Conference held on 17 February this year. The cooperation to reduce environmental pollution has borne fruit and a number of environmental hot spots have seen positive development since the work started in 2003. Further improvements will be on the agenda at the 100th meeting of the Subgroup on Hot Spots Exclusion to be held on 7 April.

Barents Environmental Hot Spots are major polluters situated in the Russian part of the Barents Region. These were defined by the Nordic Environment Finance Corporation (Nefco) and an Arctic Council working group – Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) – in a report that was released in 2003. A slightly updated List of Hot Spots is now in the focus of the BEAC Working Group on Environment (WGE) and its Subgroup on Hot Spots Exclusion (SHE). The Subgroup was established by the Barents Ministers of Environment in 2010 to facilitate environmental improvements at the initial 42 Hot Spots.

Since 2010, SHE has carried out its activities on a regular basis, achieving impressive progress in Hot Spots exclusion. SHE also continues competence enhancement of the Russian experts working in environment-related spheres. At this time, when it is not possible to meet physically, the Subgroup arranges webinars on relevant topics, such as management of contaminated sites, methane emissions, waste treatment and others.

Nefco is the fund manager of the Barents Hot Spots Facility (BHSF), which has been the main provider of funding and financial support for Barents co-operation since 2005. In total, Nefco has actively supported over 80 specific actions related to the Hot Spots and other major environmental issues in the region.

Two pilot Hot Spots, Ko3-2 Mondi Syktyvkar Pulp and Paper Mill (wastewater discharge), located in the Komi Republic, and K5 Sewage Treatment in Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia, went through the exclusion procedure in 2019-2020 and were excluded from the Barents Hot Spots List. Modernisation at these hot spots has reduced water pollution in the regions, contributing to a better environmental situation. To date, 12 full hot spots and 3 partial ones have achieved significant environmental improvements and been excluded from the list, while others remain to be solved.

In 2020-2023, the Working Group on Environment and its Subgroups are chaired by Finland. “Finland is to mark the hundredth meeting of the Subgroup on Hot Spots Exclusion, which will take place on 7 April, this time virtually,” says SHE Co-Chair Helena Dahlbo from the Finnish Environment Institute. “Our mission is to continue cooperation towards a sustainable and environmentally safe Barents Euro-Arctic Region.”

In order to implement this goal, SHE is working on several priority areas, one of them being waste management, which is a serious environmental challenge for all the Russian regions. A common approach in strategic planning and the introduction of waste sorting, re-use and recycling could minimise dumping of waste, which negatively affects the fragile Barents nature. Waste handling will be one of the topics discussed at the SHE#100 meeting. “We have asked our counterparts in the Komi Republic and the Norwegian consulting company Norsk Energi to share the first results of their international project on waste management [Ko6 Hot Spot], supported by the Barents Hot Spots Facility,” concludes Ms Dahlbo.

The 100th meeting of the WGE Subgroup on Hot Spots Exclusion will be held virtually on 7 April 2021.

Read more about the Barents environmental Hot Spots.

For further information, please contact:

Henrik G. Forsström, Senior Adviser, Nefco

henrik.forsstrom@nefco.int, +358 10 6180 638

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