Russia signed an agreement on Tuesday on international funding for co-financing nature conservation projects operating under the Arctic Council.
The agreement was signed by Russia's Natural Resources Minister Yury Trutnev and Managing Director of Nordic Environment Finance Corporation (NEFCO) Magnus Rystedt.
This agreement started the work of the first international fund for co-financing nature conservation projects operating under the Arctic Council. The aim of the fund, the Project Support Instrument (PSI), is to finance Arctic Council member states helping to protect the Arctic environment. Russia was the first Arctic Council member state to accept the new instrument.
"The thing is not in money. The most important thing for us is that we have the same aims. We would like the Arctic to be environmentally clean", Trutnev said at the signing ceremony.
The fund will finance projects aimed at eliminating 194 ecologically damaged "hot spots" in Russia, according to Trutnev.
"The PSI fund is not the first mutual project that we have with Russia although it should be a powerful impetus for further cooperation", Rystedt said.
Anton Vasiliev, a special ambassador for Russia's Foreign Affairs Ministry, who attended the ceremony signing, said that this fund gave additional means to implement a so called "spring-clean" in the Arctic. He hoped that when the member states see that the mechanism was working "there will be more money in the fund."
"For the Arctic Council which still operates as an international forum, even though at the highest level, this is an important step towards a full fledged international organization. Financing from this fund can be considered as the transition to a quasi budget", Vasiliev added.
In May Russia's government supported the agreement between Russia and NEFCO that will manage Arctic Council member states' assets, to support projects for the elimination of ecologically damaged "hot spots" in the Arctic.
The Russian government also agreed to transfer $10 million to the PSI in 2011-2012.
The Arctic Council is an international regional structure which aim is to promote cooperation in protecting the environment and promoting the development of the Polar Regions. The Ottawa (Canada) Declaration established the Arctic Council on September 19, 1996. It was signed by eight member states Denmark, Iceland, Canada, Norway, Russia, USA, Finland and Sweden. Arctic indigenous communities are full members of the council, and 26 observers operate in it: six non-Arctic states, nine inter-governmental and inter-parliament organizations and eleven non-governmental organizations. During its last meeting in Greenland in May 2011 the council's decisions were accepted as legally binding. The permanent council's secretariat was established in Tromso, Norway.
NEFCO was established in 1990 by Denmark, Island, Norway, Finland and Sweden to render financial help to environmental projects that are economically beneficial and at the same time environmentally friendly.