International cooperation to reduce pollution in Barents region continues despite of pandemic

Press release 2021-04-06 at 10:56
In February 2020 the attendants of the Barents Environmental Ministers’ Meeting visited SSAB HYBRIT site in Luleå.

Environment continues to be a high priority for the Barents cooperation. Foreign Ministers of the four Barents countries - Finland, Norway, Russia and Sweden - emphasized it during the annual International Kirkenes Conference held on 17 February this year. “Environmental issues are high on the agenda of Barents cooperation. We have seen many success stories so far in the field of reducing pollution” says Finnish Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto.

Barents Environmental Hot Spots are in focus of the BEAC Working Group on Environment (WGE) and its Subgroup on Hot Spots Exclusion (SHE). This Subgroup was established by the Barents Ministers of Environment in 2010 to facilitate environmental improvements at the initial 42 Hot Spots. These are major polluters situated in the Russian part of the Barents Region, which were defined by Nefco and AMAP report in 2003. Since 2010, SHE has carried out its activities on a regular basis, achieving impressive progress in Hot Spots exclusion.

In 2020–2023, the Working Group on Environment and its Subgroups are chaired by Finland. “Finland is glad 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 SYKE. “Our mission is to continue cooperation towards sustainable and environmentally-safe Barents Region.”

In order to implement this goal, SHE is working at several priority areas, and one of them is waste management, which is a serious environmental challenge for the Russian regions. Common approach in strategic planning and introduction of waste sorting, re-use and recycling could minimize 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 Norwegian company Norsk Energi to share first results of their international project on waste management, supported by the Barents Hot Spots Facility”, Dahlbo says.

In 2019–2020, 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 procedures, obtained the permit and were excluded from the Barents List. Modernization at these Hot Spots has reduced water pollution in the regions, contributing to better environmental situation.

Location of hot spots in Barents region. Green spots indicate areas that are excluded from the list, yellow spots indicate areas where agreed actions have been implemented, orange spots indicate areas where actions have been planned and red spots indicate areas where responsibilities have been mapped and problems assessed.

Another important issue lies in the field of reduction of pollution from mining and metallurgy. Currently, SHE is working with Kovdor Mining and Concentration Combined Enterprise situated in the Murmansk Region (M5 Hot Spot) on its wastewater discharge. According to the recently adopted Russian legislation, in 2021, the company should obtain integrated environmental permit as one of the 300 pilot enterprisers. This process corresponds a lot with the Hot Spots Exclusion Procedure, and the Russian BAT Bureau (Moscow) is assisting the company with both processes. As a result of modernization of wastewater treatment facilities, the company has significantly improved the water quality of the rivers in the town of Kovdor.

SHE continues competence enhancement of the Russian specialists working in environmental-related spheres. In times 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.

Most of the projects carried out by the Subgroup on Hot Spots Exclusion are supported by the Barents Hot Spots Facility, a fund administered by Nefco, Nordic Environment Finance Corporation. Since the Barents Hot Spots Facility became operational, Nefco has promoted over 80 specific actions related to the Hot Spots and other major environmental issues in the region.

Activities on environmental Hot Spots are high on the Barents agenda, giving a good example of practical and pragmatic approach, which Barents cooperation is well-known for.

More information

Senior Research Scientist Helena Dahlbo, Finnish Environment Institute SYKE, tel. +358 295 251 095,

More information about the Barents area cooperation

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