The environmental commission
The first governmental agreement between Norway and the Soviet Union on cooperation in the conservation area was signed as early as 1988. The agreement was renewed with Russia in 1992. The programme is run by the Ministry of Environment on the Norwegian side and the Ministry of Natural Resources on the Russian side. At the political level the collaboration operates through the Norwegian-Russian environmental commission, which meets once a year alternately in Norway and Russia. At these annual meetings the commission decides on the overall direction of the collaboration and prepares a work programme for joint projects.
From the Norwegian side, joint projects are led by the Ministry of Environment and carried out mainly by the directorates. Participating agencies include the Norwegian Polar Institute, the Directorate for Nature Management, the Climate and Pollution Agency (formerly the Pollution Control Authority), the Directorate for Cultural Heritage, the County Governor of Finnmark, the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority and the Norwegian Institute for Agricultural and Environmental Research (Bioforsk) at Svanhovd. Geographically speaking, the collaboration involves the Barents region and its coastal waters. Emphasis is placed on regulatory cooperation and on competence-building in Russian conservation management and the industrial sector, as well as specific environmental projects.
The work programme for 2009-2010 includes projects concerning the marine environment, biodiversity, pollution reduction/cleaner production, cross-border cooperation, cultural heritage, Arctic conservation areas and radioactive contamination.
Protection of the marine environment
As the Norwegian and Russian sectors of the Barents Sea are a unified ecosystem, it is important that management of resources in the Barents Sea by both countries is carried out in a sustainable way from an ecosystem-based approach. The management of the Barents Sea must therefore be based on a scientific foundation, and strict environmental standards must be imposed in accordance with the vulnerable nature of the area. The purpose of the joint projects concerning the marine environment is to assemble the necessary knowledge base for preserving the clean, rich ecosystem of the Barents Sea. Compiling environmental data and working out regulations and procedures for the control of petroleum activities are central to the partnership.
In 2005, a Norwegian-Russian working group on marine environmental cooperation was established, led jointly by the Norwegian Ministry of Environment and the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources. December 2009 marked an important milestone in marine environmental cooperation with the presentation of a joint Norwegian-Russian environmental status report for the entire Barents Sea. The report addresses all aspects of the Barents Sea ecosystem, also touching on climate change and the impact of human activities. Its main conclusion is that the environmental situation in the Barents Sea is generally satisfactory. However, there are concerns as to the effects of climate change, the continuing spread of alien species, damage caused by trawling and low levels in some commercial fish stocks as a result of overfishing. Anticipated increases in petroleum and shipping activities are highlighted as significant challenges. A basis for joint environmental monitoring of the Barents Sea is to be developed during 2010. In addition, the environmental status report will form the basis of a comprehensive Russian plan for the management of the Russian sector of the Barents Sea; the report will also play an important part in a revision of Norway's management plan for the Norwegian sector.
Given the expected increase in petroleum activities in the Barents Sea, one focus of the marine environmental group's work in 2010 will be on projects concerning e.g. comparison of Norwegian and Russian legislation and practices for petroleum-related activities in the Arctic, exchange of experience relating to supervision and control and harmonization of methods for environmental monitoring.
The Norwegian-Russian frontier covers areas of great natural interest, including designated protected areas on both sides of the border. Through this region flows the Pasvik watershed, which Norway shares with Russia and Finland. Here the three countries have established the Pasvik-Inari Trilateral Park, which is certified by the Europarc scheme.
Sulphur and particulate emissions from the nickel works at Pechenga have caused extensive damage to forests, acidification of water and soils, and the accumulation of heavy metals in lichen and moss. A joint monitoring program for the Pasvik area is in preparation, and both parties are working to develop and strengthen provisions for monitoring air quality.
The aim of this cross-border collaboration is to reduce pollution, preserve biodiversity and develop the best possible management of protected areas, shared animal populations and water resources.
Reducing the emissions of sulphur and heavy metals from Pechenganikel is still the great unresolved challenge in Norwegian-Russian environmental cooperation. These emissions are currently about five times the total of those released in Norway.
Pollution reduction and cleaner production
Pollution issues are central to Norwegian-Russian environmental cooperation. The purpose of this work is to strengthen joint control, monitoring and prevention measures so that environmental pollutants and waste are kept within the bounds of sustainable development.
The Norwegian-Russian working group on pollution, created in 2009, will expand its operations in 2010 with particular emphasis on dealing with PCBs.
In this regard, the most comprehensive and longest-standing programme to date has involved cleaner production. Tekna, formerly the Norwegian civil engineers' association, works with the Cleaner Production Centre in Moscow training engineers in environment- and resource-friendly production methods. The programme also includes training in project planning and environmental management. Nearly 2000 engineers from a thousand companies have participated in the basic programme in the past ten years, and numerous small, cost-effective projects have been launched with Russian companies.
Norway and Russia face many of the same challenges when it comes to climate change, particularly in northern areas. In 2010, climate change is to be a priority for Norwegian-Russian collaboration, with a focus on knowledge building and measures for adapting to climate change and limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Exchange of information and experience is also expected to play an important role. During the year the partners will decide on specific activities. An agreement between Norway and Russia on joint projects under the Kyoto Protocol is to be signed during President Medvedev's visit in April. The agreement will be followed up as part of the bilateral climate change programme.
The work of the Norwegian-Russian expert group for investigating radioactive contamination in the northern areas is carried out under the government's action plan for nuclear issues. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs coordinates this work, reporting to the Environmental Commission. Emphasis is placed on regulatory cooperation including impact assessments, regulatory development, emergency preparedness and environmental monitoring.
Norwegian-Russian environmental cooperation
Nuclear action plan