New priorities of the Barents environmental cooperation
12th Meeting of the Environment Ministers under the Barents Euro-Arctic Council took place in Sortavala, Russia on 24-25 November 2015. The meeting was attended by senior officials of Finland, Norway, Russia and Sweden, as well as representatives of indigenous peoples, regional bodies, environmental organizations and other invited guests.
The meeting became a final event within the frames of the Russian Chairmanship in the BEAC Working Group on Environment (WGE) in 2014-2015. Members of the WGE and its Subgroups on Hot Spots Exclusion, Nature Protection and Water Issues, as well as the Regional Working Group on Environment reported on the main results achieved during the two-year period. Among the main events, four WGE meetings were arranged in different regions of North-West Russia, enabling more active involvement of the Russian partners in cooperation, which was one of the tasks of the Russia Chairmanship.
Regional Working Group on Environment presented several completed projects on water supply, monitoring of rivers and restoration of salmon population in the Barents Region. Good results were achieved in the field of nature preservation and biodiversity. A Strategy for Protection of the Intact Forest in the Barents Region has been developed, and the ministers acknowledged the Strategy as an important contribution to meet the Aichi biodiversity targets of the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD). Two successfully completed projects – Barents Protected Area Network and Green Belt of Fennoscandia, supervised by the Subgroup on Nature Protection – contributed to further actions on forest conservation and environmental cooperation in the border areas.
Subgroup on Hot Spots Exclusion reported on their progress achieved in implementation of the Hot Spots exclusion procedure. Three environmental Hot Spots (one totally and two partially) have been recommended for exclusion from the Barents List. The ministers assented to the exclusion of the Hot Spot Drinking water in Petrozavodsk (Republic of Karelia), which had reached significant improvements due to the joint efforts of Petrozavodsk Communal Systems, Nordic Environment Finance Corporation (NEFCO) and Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership (NDEP). Two other Hot Spots - Severodvinsk Heat and Power Plant No 2 (Arkhangelsk region) and Mondi Pulp and Paper Mill, emission to air, (Komi Republic) - were excluded from the list partially.
The meeting ended with handing over the Chairmanship in the BEAC Working Group on Environment to Norway, followed by a presentation of the main priorities for the coming two years. The priorities include support for exclusion of the Barents Environmental Hot Spots, follow-up of the Action Plan on Climate Change (adopted at the 11th Meeting of the Environment Ministers), further work on regional cooperation and water issues as well as implementation of the Strategy for Protection of Intact Forest. Several WGE and Subgroups meetings and thematic workshops will be held in order to coordinate ongoing and future activities.
Photo (IBS): Ivan Valentik (Deputy Minister, RU) hands over a symbol of the Chairmanship in WGE to Lars Andreas Lunde (State Secretary, NO)
Text: Maria Dianova