Norway is taking over the chairmanship of Arctic Contaminant Action Programme (ACAP) from May 7, 2019.
ACAP is a working group under the Arctic Council with a focus on how to reduce Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), mercury, other chemical threats, waste and short-lived climate polluters to the Arctic and give a voice to indigenous and local people on these matters. Pilot projects are initiated and implemented by financing mainly under the Projects Support Instrument (PSI), where Arctic states contribute voluntarily. All Arctic states are participating in the work and observers are allowed to participate at ACAP meetings.
Toxic substances are threats to human health and ecosystems in the Arctic and are accumulated through the food-chain. Such substances are carried by wind, precipitation and ocean currents to the Artic. It is important to observe and measure deposits in the Arctic through monitoring programs. Recent research shows that deposits of chemicals in the Arctic, that are regulated in international conventions are generally decreasing, while other new chemicals that are not regulated are increasing. There are a large number of different chemical components and the number of new ones are increasing. Some of the most toxic ones have been prohibited. Recent screeing of chemical data bases in Europe and North-America has identified up to about 1200 substances with the potential to reach the Arctic and accumulate in the food chain. This was underlined in AMAP’s assessment report “Chemicals of Emerging Concern” from 2017. The work of EU and Nordic countries in co-operation with business and industries to find more environmental substitutes and making production more sustainable is a step in the right direction. The same goes for the work on eco-design and circular economy internationally to keep toxic substances out of the value chain.
The IPCC special report (2018) on global warming of 1,5 degrees shows how urgent it is to curb climate change. The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world. New local records are broken every year. Unabated climate change would change the Arctic beyond recognition. Local emissions of soot particles and other short-lived climate polluters from petroleum activity, shipping and industries are contributing actively to warming and rapid melting in the Arctic. ACAP aims to create awareness of such effects through pilot projects and effects on environment and health of local people. The idea is that experiences of successful pilot projects may be scaled up by national authorities through sharing of experiences and best practices.
Some important pilot projects of ACAP:
A new pilot project on Mercury and the related risks is being started up this year. The aim is to develop an action plan to reduce emissions in some Arctic countries. This will contribute to strengthening efforts of Artic states to follow up on the Minamata Convention ratified in 2017. Norway will take a lead on this project. The project has been developed by the Norwegian Institute for Water Research has been approved by ACAP and received PSI financing for a first phase. Norway will contribute with NOK 100 000 in national co-funding to this first project to tackle mercury pollution, supplementing funding from the Project Support Instrument of the Arctic Council.
A Climate Local Environmental (CLEO) network has been established among the Arctic States and will this year be expanded in Nordic countries. More than 1000 observers and 600 municipalities are engaged in the network of people that are reporting on climate change effects at local level in the Arctic. Young people, students and local people are engaged and reporting is done by an App. Support Centers or professional hubs are being established at national level in US, Canada, Finland, Sweden and Norway. The Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment will therefore provide NOK 260 000 to establish a professional hub in Norway to support improve quality and reliability of reporting on the CLEO project. Observations can contribute to valuable input for adaptation measures.
Research indicates that 40% of the black carbon in the Arctic comes from flaring and this is contributing to rapid warming in the Arctic. Flaring of associated gas is a huge waste of resources, which could instead be used for energy production or to increase production efficiency. While Arctic states should be in the forefront of efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and black carbon, the climate challenges must be solved through global efforts. Flaring is one area where ACAP will continue to have a strong focus through pilot projects. A major project is ongoing to reduce methane emissions from flaring in the petroleum industry, by capture and reuse methane gas and reduce flaring . In Norway, flaring has been prohibited for many years. The Arctic states share best practices and knowledge. ACAP supports efforts to reduce black carbon from flaring in co-operation with Russian petroleum companies, partly financed by PSI. In Russia 80% of the black carbon emissions stems from flaring. This project will provide advice for future investments in the sector that could avoid emissions of black carbon and methane. The goal is to capture and sell the methane gas. It is a win-win solution, contribution with less emission, less cost for private sector and with an aim to contribute to slow down the rapid warming in the Arctic. A first phase of the project has been implemented. Other pilot projects have been carried out in the transportation sector, mining sector and a new project is coming up in the shipping sector.
Sami communities at the Kola Peninsula in Murmansk Oblast, Sami Council and local authorities work together to reduce hazardous waste and other waste that cause damage to human beings and ecosystems. A project to clean up and develop management systems was started up last summer and this project will continue into a next phase with a plan to follow-up. ACAP approved the project and the first mapping phase was financed by Norway and Sweden last summer. Financial support for clean-up measures and to develop a management system to avoid similar pollution in the future in the Sami area at Kola together with Russian authorities, is under consideration.