Heavy snow storm and puddles on the streets of Arkhangelsk were probably the best illustration for the agenda of the Barents Regional Council meeting opened in this northern city on Wednesday. On the sidelines of the meeting the representatives of northernmost areas of Europe complained that they had not enjoyed winter this year and obviously the question marked as number one in the agenda was the plan of action for development of regional climate strategy for the Russian part of the Barents Region according to the joint action plan in the sphere of climate change for 2014-2015.
The plan was worked out by the government of Arkhangelsk oblast which currently chairs the Regional Council. The main element of this strategy is establishing the reliable monitoring of the amounts of greenhouse gas and black carbon emission and further steps for its reduction. The climate strategies for the Russian Barents regions are supposed to be worked out before the end of next year and to a large extent they will be used an experience of the neighboring regions in Northern Finland and Norway.
The Climate plan suggested by Arkhangelsk did not cause any big discussions and was easily adopted by the Regional Council members may be because that many of them were quite exhausted by a long trip to Arkhangelsk the day before. The participants from northern Norway for example had to spend 12 hours in the planes and airports of Oslo and Moscow to reach the final destination. Alternatively the flight from Tromsø to Arkhangelsk takes only four hours with a short stop in Murmansk. But this flight is now available only twice a week and the old fashioned propellar Antonov-24 often raises serious safety concerns among foreign passengers. This is why probably the second important question of the Regional Council meeting was development of better east-west transport connection in the Barents region and it was a topic of lively discussions.
Arkhangelsk oblast during its chairmanship is going to initiate discussion around establishing the air connection between the main airports of the Barents region: Oulu, Rovaniemi, Luleå, Tromsø, Murmansk, Arkhangelsk and Syktyvkar. This is a hard challenge because so far all attempts to develop the air routes inside the Barents region did not bring impressive results. Nordavia company for example during some years operated the flights between Arkhangelsk, Rovaniemi and Luleå and between Arkhangelsk and Helsinki.
For a few years in late 90s Arkhangelsk enjoyed the regular flights to Stockholm operated by SAS. Obviously these experiments were not enough economically efficient and today the only regular air connection have two Barents cities: Tromsø and Arkhangelsk. This flight is operated for already 21 years and annual passenger’s turnover makes 5,000 people. The flight is profitable for the company, but nevertheless, Nordavia has limited the number of flights to twice per week and so far did not pronounce the plans to introduce modern regional air jets instead of yhe old AN-24.
The Barents Regional Council agreed that better transport mobility can bring new impetus to the development in many sectors of cross-border cooperation in the North especially in tourism, education and business. If all Barents areas would work together the climate at least in these sectors can be change for the better.