Building Urban Climate Change Adaptation Strategies: The Case of Russian Arctic Cities

Nikolai Bobylev aSt. Petersburg State University, Saint Petersburg, Russia

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Sebastien Gadal bAix-Marseille Université, Université Côte d’Azur, Avignon Université, CNRS, ESPACE, UMR 730, Marseille, France
cDepartment of Ecology and Geography, Institute of Natural Sciences, North-Eastern Federal University, Russia

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Valery Konyshev aSt. Petersburg State University, Saint Petersburg, Russia

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Maria Lagutina aSt. Petersburg State University, Saint Petersburg, Russia

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Alexander Sergunin aSt. Petersburg State University, Saint Petersburg, Russia
dNizhny Novgorod State University, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia

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Abstract

The Russian Arctic is a highly urbanized region, with most towns built in the Soviet era to facilitate extraction industries as well as to provide and maintain military facilities. Global environmental and developmental changes, as well as national political decisions, open up Russia’s Arctic to massive investment and industrial and socioeconomic development. How do Russian Arctic cities, towns, and municipalities reflect on new opportunities in terms of designing their climate change adaptation strategies at a local level? Starting with theoretical discourse on urban climate change adaptation strategy, this research examines state-of-the-art challenges and trends in planning for adaptation measures in Russia’s Arctic industrial centers. Special attention is given to a comparative analysis of the cities’ climate change adaptation strategies. The role of civil society institutions and business community in the adaptation strategy planning process is explored. Moreover, conflict-sensitive approaches to ensure participatory processes for designing and implementing adaptation measures are discussed. The field component of research is based on the cities of Apatity, Arkhangelsk, Murmansk, Norilsk, Salekhard, and Severodvinsk and the towns of Monchegorsk, Nickel, and Vorkuta. The study concludes that, despite significant challenges identified, the total “balance sheet” of the Arctic cities’ efforts to enhance their adaptive capacities is very positive: Russian northern urban settlements do their best in addressing existing challenges via planning for sustainability approach. However, there is more to do, and municipalities should learn from one another’s experiences, as the different approaches can be helpful in developing adequate climate change adaptation strategies at the local level.

Sergunin’s ORCID: 0000-0002-4683-0611.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Alexander Sergunin, a.sergunin@spbu.ru

Abstract

The Russian Arctic is a highly urbanized region, with most towns built in the Soviet era to facilitate extraction industries as well as to provide and maintain military facilities. Global environmental and developmental changes, as well as national political decisions, open up Russia’s Arctic to massive investment and industrial and socioeconomic development. How do Russian Arctic cities, towns, and municipalities reflect on new opportunities in terms of designing their climate change adaptation strategies at a local level? Starting with theoretical discourse on urban climate change adaptation strategy, this research examines state-of-the-art challenges and trends in planning for adaptation measures in Russia’s Arctic industrial centers. Special attention is given to a comparative analysis of the cities’ climate change adaptation strategies. The role of civil society institutions and business community in the adaptation strategy planning process is explored. Moreover, conflict-sensitive approaches to ensure participatory processes for designing and implementing adaptation measures are discussed. The field component of research is based on the cities of Apatity, Arkhangelsk, Murmansk, Norilsk, Salekhard, and Severodvinsk and the towns of Monchegorsk, Nickel, and Vorkuta. The study concludes that, despite significant challenges identified, the total “balance sheet” of the Arctic cities’ efforts to enhance their adaptive capacities is very positive: Russian northern urban settlements do their best in addressing existing challenges via planning for sustainability approach. However, there is more to do, and municipalities should learn from one another’s experiences, as the different approaches can be helpful in developing adequate climate change adaptation strategies at the local level.

Sergunin’s ORCID: 0000-0002-4683-0611.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Alexander Sergunin, a.sergunin@spbu.ru

1. Introduction

The Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation (AZRF) is a highly urbanized area since the Soviet time when cities and towns were created to develop extraction industries and support a formidable military infrastructure in the region. Recent climate and developmental changes generate quite contradictory processes in the region and affect northern urban communities. On the one hand, these changes are conducive for further exploitation of Arctic natural resources as well as for the development of maritime routes in the region. Furthermore, this can contribute to a more dynamic development of the Russian Arctic’s economy, including revival and sustainability of the AZRF cities.

On the other hand, the same processes can increase vulnerability of aging urban infrastructure, impede industrial activities, slow down the influx of labor force, and potentially result in further degradation of local ecosystems. The recent catastrophe at the Norilsk power station (May–June 2020), when the foundation of the storage tank sank due to thawing permafrost and 20 000 tons of fuel spilled into a nearby river, demonstrated one more time, the negative implications of warming in the Arctic.

For these reasons, planning for city climate change adaptation (CCA) and sustainable development (SD) strategies in the Far North is especially important because it helps to cope with the above challenges and avoid costly mistakes in developing the region and urban communities with fragile ecosystems and socioeconomic structures.

Some efforts were undertaken by various international organizations and individual researchers to study and measure cities’ CCA and SD strategies, including the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (United Nations 2015), 1996 UN-Habitat City Development Index (Flood 1997; United Nations 2016), UN-Habitat City Prosperity Initiative (UN-Habitat 2013), U.K. Smart Cities Index (Huawei 2016), and some scholarly publications (Bobylev et al. 2013; Davidson et al. 2019; Prakash et al. 2017; Ruiz et al. 2014; Sergunin 2018a; Suter et al. 2017). There are a few publications on some specific aspects of the AZRF cities’ CCA and SD strategies (Joenniemi and Sergunin 2014, 2016; Kenny 2017; Orttung 2017, 2020; Sergunin 2018b, 2019, 2020). However, the question of how Russia’s Arctic urban settlement plan (not implement) their CCA/SD policies, has not been given due consideration either by international institutions or world academic community. The research gap in this area remains unfilled.

The novelty of this research is that it contributes to the discussion on how major AZRF urban communities organize the CCA/SD strategy planning process. Along with this general objective, this study focuses on four more concrete unexplored research questions: First, to examine whether the CCA and SD concepts are integrated into the urban development strategies and whether they are a real priority for the AZRF municipalities. Second, to figure out which local government and societal institutions are involved in the policy planning process and whether this sphere of local politics is transparent and open to public discussions. Third, to find out which aspects of the CCA and SD concepts—economic, ecological, or social/humanitarian ones—are given priority in the municipal development strategies. Finally, to discuss whether the AZRF municipal CCA/SD strategies aim to solve short-term/most pressing problems or if they suggest long-term policies built on sustainability principles and are oriented to solve fundamental socioeconomic and ecological problems of the AZRF urban communities.

This research is based on several empirical cases, including major Arctic industrial centers—Nickel, Monchegorsk, Murmansk, Arkhangelsk, Severodvinsk, Vorkuta, Salekhard, and Norilsk.

2. Theoretical framework

This study is based on the assumption that CCA is a response to global climate change and, at the same time, along with climate change mitigation, it forms an integral part of the SD strategy. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2014, p. 1758) defines adaptation as follows: “The process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects. In human systems, adaptation seeks to moderate or avoid harm or exploit beneficial opportunities. In some natural systems, human intervention may facilitate adjustment to expected climate and its effects.” This adjustment includes many areas such as industries, infrastructure, agriculture, and social security as well as health care systems and education. It should be noted, however, that without mitigation, adaptation alone cannot avert the risk of climate change’s negative impacts. That is why many countries and subnational units try to combine both adaptation and mitigation strategies.

According to the IPCC (2014, p. 1758), there are two types of adaptation: incremental adaptation (where the central aim is to maintain the essence and integrity of a system) and transformational adaptation (which changes the fundamental attributes of a system in response to climate change and its impacts).

Adaptation can take place at the global, national, or local/municipal scale. Scheraga and Grambsch (1998, p. 87) identified nine key principles of adaptation policy: 1) the effects of climate change vary by region; 2) the effects of climate change may vary across demographic groups; 3) climate change poses great risks and opportunities; 4) the effects of climate change must be considered in the context of multiple stressors and factors, which may be as important to the design of adaptive responses as the sensitivity to change; 5) adaptation comes at a cost; 6) adaptive responses vary in effectiveness, as demonstrated by current efforts to cope with climate variability; 7) the systemic nature of climate impacts complicates the development of adaptation policy; 8) maladaptation can result in negative effects that are as serious as the climate-induced effects being avoided; 9) many opportunities for adaptation make sense whether or not the effects of climate change are realized. These principles are partially used to assess the AZRF municipal CCA strategies’ effectiveness.

Along with CCA theories, urban planning methodology is important for our study. As with any theory, planning is a set of concepts, principles, definitions, methodological approaches, hypotheses, and assumptions based on city development strategy. Whittemore (2015, p. 77) identifies eight planning theories: “a rational-comprehensive theory, an incremental theory, a transactive theory, a communicative theory, an advocacy theory, an equity theory, a radical theory, and a humanist or phenomenological theory.” Three of them—the rational-comprehensive, advocacy, and humanist approaches—are better suited for applying to the study of the AZRF urban CCA strategies.

The supporters of the rational-comprehensive approach believe that problem and priority definition as well as a strategy design are the prerogatives of experts who are the only persons capable of doing proper planning. A rationalist-type planner, the “technician,” is used to being neutral to politics and prefers to rely on technical rather than policy-oriented information with regard to problem-solving. The systems approach usually complements this planning approach. Representation of urban communities as systems suggests their vision as entities possessing certain structure consisting of elements with some functions. People, goods, services, and capital should operate within the framework set by the urban structure. To make the urban system more efficient and/or sustainable structural components, their functions, as well as system’s rules and procedures should be changed. Such a technocratic approach is the dominant one in the AZRF urban planning because all levels of the Russian government—the local, regional, and federal—firmly believe that only experts/specialists have relevant knowledge and skills to produce a proper urban CCA strategy.

In contrast with the rational-comprehensive approach, the advocacy theory is based on the assumption that planners are not neutral players or “technicians”; rather, they use their expertise and power to push forward the interests of specific actors. While decision-makers exercise planning, they have to take into consideration the interests of many actors—governmental and nongovernmental. For example, Soma et al. (2018) identified government-, stakeholder-, and science-based initiatives at the municipal level. This makes the planning process much more pluralistic and complicated. Given a variety of actors in the AZRF cities—governments, companies, military, indigenous peoples, trade unions, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), etc.—the municipal planners try to take into consideration their interests by integrating their needs into the urban development plans and involving them both in the policy planning and implementation process.

A humanist or phenomenological approach prefers to emphasize “the unique ways that different groups come to possess knowledge, and the difficulty with which one group’s knowledge can be translated to others given the diversity of human experiences and perspectives” (Whittemore 2015, p. 78). This theory challenges the rational-comprehensive approach by stressing the fact that various actors can view the same problems confronting planners differently. For example, various stakeholders, such as the municipal government, extractive industries, environmentalists, and indigenous peoples, can radically differ by their visions of a resilient/sustainable Arctic city. This creates a puzzle for urban planners who are often unable to reconcile these conflicting interests in the local CCA strategy documents.

Moreover, in reality, the municipal planners are not free from some emotions, sympathies, and antipathies that inevitably affect their decisions and make the overall planning process less rationalistic. As some “humanists” underline, the rationalist/technocratic-type of planning never occur in reality. Along with rationalistic considerations, the municipal planners should take into account other factors and policy inputs that may reflect different (and not always rational) perceptions of and perspectives on existing problems and urban development priorities (Reich 1975, p. 11).

Despite the obvious collisions between these theoretical approaches, all three can be found in the AZRF city development plans and practical policies. Among the AZRF urban planners, we do not see one theory substituted by another. Though the rational-comprehensive theory is seen by many planning specialists as inadequate, this paradigm still retains its dominant position in the present-day Russian academic discourse. As explained above, two other approaches are also unable to thoroughly explain urban developmental problems and suggest proper CCA strategies for the future. Scholars continue to develop new planning theories, but they have to return from time to time to the traditional ones.

3. Materials and method

The data for this research are drawn from various sources:

  • urban development strategies/plans,

  • city administration reports on the implementation of the above strategies,

  • analytical papers produced by various expert centers and NGOs, and

  • media publications.

Eight AZRF urban settlements were selected for this study: Nickel, Monchegorsk, Murmansk, Arkhangelsk, Severodvinsk, Vorkuta, Salekhard, and Norilsk. They were chosen on the basis of three criteria: the size of population (largest cities), industrial significance for the region as well as country and gravity of climate change–related problems that pose challenges to their sustainability. In some cases, such as that of Monchegorsk, Nickel, Norilsk, Severodvinsk, and Vorkuta, two or even all three criteria are applicable.

Based on previous research (Kenny 2017; Orttung 2017; Sergunin 2018a; Suter et al. 2017) and comparative analysis of the AZRF cities’ development strategies and plans, a system of indicators for urban CCA/SD planning was developed and taken as an organizing principle for this study (see Table 1). These indicators reflect the most important aspects of the CCA/SD strategy planning process and, for this reason, allow an assessment of efficacy of this process. The value of each indicator ranges from 0.0 to 1.0.

Table 1.

The AZRF urban sustainable development strategy planning index. Leader cities are in boldface. Cities between leaders and outsiders are in italics. Outsider cities are in plain text.

Table 1.

The value of indicators for each city/town was defined differently. Some indicators (e.g., “Does the municipality have a climate change adaptation strategy or its elements?” “Are all three components of SD represented in the municipal strategic documents?” “Does the municipality pay attention to the environmental problems?”) are developed on the basis of the qualitative content analysis of municipal strategic documents. In total, 12 municipal development plans, socioeconomic forecasts and target programs designed by eight AZRF urban settlements were studied.

The data on other indicators [e.g., “Has a municipality all three types of strategic documents (strategy, prognosis and target programs)?” “Is there a special planning office in the city/town?” “Are the plans publicly available, e.g., on a website?” “Does the city administration engage the local business community in the strategy planning process?”] are driven from municipalities’ websites, local mass media and other sources. The data on the selected eight cities/towns are represented in an aggregated form in Table 1.

Based on the indicator system, a comparative method was used for further analysis. As Wolff and Haase (2020) rightly put it, this research approach gives a better understanding of urban CCA/SD strategy planning process by analyzing similarities and differences of several cases. The results of the comparative analysis are discussed in the next section.

4. Results and discussion

From the data represented in Table 1, Murmansk demonstrates the best score (14.3), being an absolute leader in terms of CCA/SD strategy planning efficiency, while Nickel (10.1), Monchegorsk (10.7), and Vorkuta (10.9) have the lowest ratings, falling into a category of outsiders. Norilsk (11.6), Arkhangelsk (11.9), Salekhard (12.0), and Severodvinsk (12.9) form a group that is “in between” with average indicators. Note that ratings of specific urban settlements are determined by a combination of various factors rather than depend on one or two indicators. For example, the Murmansk leadership can be explained by its relatively good record in nearly all areas of strategy planning, ranging from paying attention to all major aspects of CCA/SD strategy and having a proper implementation mechanism to incorporating the local stakeholders into the planning process and having well-established cooperation with international partners. On the other hand, the outsiders, such as Nickel, Monchegorsk and Vorkuta failed to demonstrate their ability to organize CCA/SD strategy planning in a proper manner in many important spheres.

To summarize the results of comparative analysis of the AZRF cities’ CCA/SD strategy planning, the following findings can be presented. First of all, Russia’s northern urban centers try to establish and further develop a proper strategy planning system. The success or failure to do that depends on whether the city leadership understands the importance of having a CCA/SD strategy or not. As local governments’ strategies demonstrate, the Arctic municipalities generally acknowledge the need of having such strategies. For example, the Salekhard development plan identified climate change as an important problem for the Arctic territories and called for international cooperation on climate change mitigation and adaptation in the framework of the Arctic Council and Nordic Council of Ministers (Salekhard City Administration 2007, pp. 106 and 156).

However, none of these cities has a special CCA or SD strategy. Instead, city development plans/strategies have sections that can be titled, for example, as follows: “sustainable socioeconomic development,” “sustainable ecological development,” “human/social capital development,” and “creating a comfortable urban environment.”

These documents address specific climate change–related threats and challenges, such as air pollution generated by the AZRF heavy industries and transport, forest impacts (change in forest composition, shift geographic range of forests, and forest health and productivity), water resource impacts (changes in water supply and water quality), impacts on coastal areas (erosion and inundation of coastal lands, damage to port infrastructure, and costs to defend coastal communities), and impacts on species and natural areas (shift in ecological zones and loss of habitat and species). Unfortunately, CCA, which is an important aspect of contemporary urban agenda, was not distinctively reflected in any planning documents that we reviewed in this research.

Meanwhile, AZRF cities are on the forefront of climate adaptation challenges, and resiliency planning tools would be an appropriate addition to their planning. European resiliency planning approaches can be helpful, for example, the European Resilience Management Guideline (Marana et al. 2019), in ensuring standardization efforts. Perhaps only the next generation of city strategic documents will represent integrated strategies for urban CCA and/or SD rather than a set of separate strategies for each or selected sectors of city activities as it is now.

Characteristically, only large AZRF cities have all three types of strategic documents envisaged by the 2014 Russian law on strategic planning: strategy and prognosis of socioeconomic development, as well as target programs aimed to implement the above general documents (Putin 2014). Midsize and small urban centers usually have only the third kind of documents—“target programs” that are devoted to specific urban problems and only partially reflect the CCA/SD agenda. For instance, Nickel (a small mining community on the border between the Murmansk region and Norway) has only a target program on creation of comfortable urban environment, but it has never adopted a full-fledged strategic document on its socioeconomic development (Administration of the Urban Settlement Nickel of the Pechenga District 2016). Noteworthy, since 2012, Severodvinsk (a very big city by the AZRF standards with 185 000 inhabitants) abandoned the practice of having long-term socioeconomic strategies. Instead, the city preferred to adopt 3-yr forecasts and targeted programs (Administration of Severodvinsk 2017). The local authorities believed that less ambitious but more specific programs were more effective in terms of implementation.

However, as the 2014 law on strategic planning stipulated, all tiers of the Russian government, including the municipal one, are obliged to develop socioeconomic development strategies of their own. In May 2018, the Severodvinsk mayor organized a meeting with the local legislators, business community, experts, and NGOs to discuss the prospects for the development of an integrated municipal socioeconomic strategy up to 2030, instead of a set of target programs (Severodvinsk City Administration’s Press Service 2018).

Another important aspect of effective planning process is whether the city administration has a special planning unit within its structure or not. Urban settlements that prefer to have sectoral development plans or target programs, usually split planning functions among different administrative units responsible for specific policy areas (economy, social policy, environment, culture, etc.). But most Russian northern municipalities assign planning functions to their economic departments rather than establish a special strategy planning office or involve in a coordinated manner various units responsible for activities other than economic policy. Naturally, this leads to the dominance of economic issues on the developmental agenda, while the social/humanitarian and environmental problems can be largely ignored or paid less attention. On the other hand, this confirms our hypothesis that the rational-comprehensive approach to planning still prevails among the AZRF decision-makers.

As a result of this technocratic approach, most municipal strategies focus on a single issue rather than integrated/comprehensive character. For instance, while the Murmansk and Severodvinsk programs of socioeconomic development (Severodvinsk City Government 2010; Murmansk City Government 2013) contain all the most important components of the CCA and SD concepts, the Arkhangelsk strategic document addresses only a limited number of problems (transportation, education and health care systems, environment, preservation and development of local cultural heritage), neglecting the CCA problems and key dimensions of sustainability, such as political, community, personal and food security (Arkhangelsk City Government 2008).

None of the considered plans clearly addressed emissions of greenhouse gas that are seen as the main source of global warming, including the Far North. Methods for doing this in the AZRF context would be a challenge. Climate policy actions, which many cities of the world prioritize, for example, controlling building quality, dense development, or introduction of parking restrictions can hardly be found in the AZRF urban strategic documents.

Strategy planning units that normally are a part of economic departments are usually small and staffed with only few employees even in the largest urban centers like Arkhangelsk, Murmansk, and Norilsk. That is why, for the AZRF city planning offices, it is problematic to follow the widely accepted planning management standards and principles. For the same reason, they are unable to properly interact with other municipal structures participating in strategic planning and implementation activities. Since northern city administrations often lack planning offices that have the requisite powers to coordinate the whole process of planning and program implementation, it is very problematic for these urban settlements to harmonize municipal CCA/SD plans and guarantee that all units of the local government have the same motivation and stakes in achieving the strategic goals.

In line with international planning standards, most AZRF urban development plans include proper problem-definition, clearly outlined strategic goals, policy alternatives and implementation/monitoring mechanisms, including a system of indicators. However, they are different from each other in terms of structuring strategic documents and the nature of implementation procedures and indicators. On the one hand, some city strategic documents, such as Severodvinsk (2010), Norilsk (2012), Murmansk (2013), and Vorkuta (2014) development plans, describe in detail implementation procedures and contain a system of indicators. On the other hand, some other Russian northern cities like Arkhangelsk (2008) and Salekhard (2007) prefer to outline only some general principles of implementation strategies.

The Russian Arctic cities try to develop an adequate legal framework for their CCA/SD strategies by adopting local normative acts and, as required by federal law, through coordination of their CCA/SD strategies with national and regional ones. However, in practice, this goal is achieved by different methods. While the Murmansk development plan (Murmansk City Government 2013) aims to harmonize its strategic priorities with the regional and federal ones, many other city strategic documents (Salekhard City Administration 2007; Arkhangelsk City Government 2008; Vorkuta City Government 2014; Norilsk City Government 2012) only vaguely mention the need to coordinate their CCA/SD strategies with other tiers of the Russian government.

Note that Russian northern cities are often wary of Moscow’s undertakings in the strategic planning sphere. In 2014, when the federal center decided to apply principles and standards set by the law on strategic planning to the municipal level, this initiative got a rather cold reception in the AZRF cities. Moscow selected about 80 Russian municipalities representing different parts of the country to participate in the experiment. However, in the Russian north, only the Murmansk region agreed to partake in this project. Several cities and towns, such as Apatity, Kirovsk, Monchegorsk, Murmansk, Olenegorsk, and Polyarnye Zori, as well as the Kandalaksha, Kola, Kovdorsky, Lovozersky, Pechenga, and Tersky districts were chosen to serve as pilot subnational units. However, most of them were able to implement only certain elements of a new strategy planning philosophy. Murmansk was the only city that incorporated the 2014 law standards into its strategic documents. Emelyanova (2014) explained this by the status factor: as a capital city of the region, Murmansk had more human and financial resources to successfully execute the project than other municipalities.

According to the planning theory, the success of any urban development strategy largely depends on public/community support and engagement (Ochoa et al. 2018). To this end, it is important to make the local planning process as much transparent and interactive as possible. There are several possible ways to ensure openness of the planning process and engaging civil society institutions into both strategy formulation and implementation: hearings in the so-called public chambers (which exist under the auspices of the local legislatures), dialogue with NGOs, independent expertise of municipal projects, regular opinion polls, public debates in the local mass media and so on. Unfortunately, only Severodvinsk and Nickel adopted some municipal programs to maintain a regular dialogue with NGOs on the most important aspects of the local developmental strategies (Severodvinsk City Government 2016; Administration of the Urban Settlement Nickel of the Pechenga District 2014). Both the Vorkuta and Murmansk strategic documents (Vorkuta City Government 2014; Murmansk City Government 2013) refer to the local NGOs as potential stakeholders in planning and implementing municipal developmental projects, but do not provide any roadmap for such a dialogue with them. Other Russian northern urban centers largely ignore the problem of cooperation with the civil society institutions seeing the CCA/SD strategy planning process as a purely local government’s prerogative. Hence, the advocacy and humanist/phenomenological theories of planning based on the assumption that urban CCA/SD strategies represent or take into consideration various stakeholders’ interests, perceptions, and experiences (that may diverge from or even confront each other) work only in a limited manner.

The AZRF municipal development plans pay significant attention to the local environmental problems. First and foremost, the Russian northern urban centers now try to prevent and reduce pollution in the region rather than to focus on elimination of accumulated ecological damage (Monchegorsk City Government 2016; Arkhangelsk City Government 2008). For example, the Murmansk City Government (2015) believes that reduction of air pollution will help to mitigate climate change and suggested a number of specific measures to reduce dangerous emissions. These policies are viewed as more adequate and efficient than eliminating the environmental damage mostly created by the Soviet economic and defense activities in the north. On the other hand, this is a good example how adaptation and mitigation strategies can complement and reinforce each other.

Rehabilitation of damaged ecosystems, including measures such as strategic environmental assessment, targeting the priority (i.e., most problematic) areas, clean-up initiatives in those cities where such programs are still incomplete, establishing monitoring systems, and so on is another priority for the urban ecological strategies.

Waste (solid and liquid) treatment is viewed by the Russian northern urban settlements as an important problem whose solution is still pending. Given the significance of the problem, building of waste treatment plants and/or safe storages is an important priority for many AZRF municipalities (e.g., Monchegorsk City Government 2016; Arkhangelsk City Government 2008).

To protect endangered species both on the urban territory and in the adjacent regions, some AZRF municipalities launched a series of targeted programs aimed at conservation of biodiversity.

In line with international standards (Ochoa et al. 2018), building of public–private partnerships to implement ecological projects became an integral part of the Arctic cities’ environmental strategies. These partnerships emerged because, on the one hand, the state lacks money for such projects and, on the other hand, companies operating in the AZRF feel it is their responsibility for the protection and improvement of the local environment (especially given the fact that they were and still are the major source of pollution in the Russian north). For instance, environmental cooperation between Nornickel (one of Russia’s leading extractive and metallurgical companies) and Norilsk city administration as well as with several municipalities in the Murmansk region, where this company has production, exemplifies such a public–private partnership.

Trying to promote environmental studies at the local level, some AZRF municipalities financially and administratively support universities and research institutions dealing with ecological problems (see Arkhangelsk City Government 2008, p. 90; Murmansk City Government 2013, 37–38).

Promotion of ecological education and culture as well as increasing of awareness of the local communities about the AZRF environmental problems became an important policy priority for most of the Russian northern municipalities.

To develop “green” culture among the local communities and mobilize the latter for the implementation of environmental projects, some Arctic urban centers establish cooperation with civil society institutions and mass media specializing on the ecological issues.

Some Russian northern municipalities (e.g., Monchegorsk City Government 2016) tried to organize regular monitoring of the most problematic areas in terms of ecological security: climate change negative consequences, protection of endangered species, conservation of biodiversity, control over air and water pollution, prevention of natural and technogenic catastrophes, etc.

Depending on the gravity of ecological problems, the Russian Arctic local governments differ by their opinion on the importance of this problem for them. For example, Arkhangelsk, Murmansk, and Salekhard consider ecological problems as important ones, but for them, this issue is only one of many questions on their SD agenda.

On the other hand, the Monchegorsk, Nickel, Norilsk, Severodvinsk, and Vorkuta city administrations, which face much more acute environmental problems than other northern municipalities, pay a greater attention to the ecological aspects of their developmental programs. Since the Soviet era, these urban settlements were traditionally developed as centers of extractive, machine- and ship-building industries, metallurgical and chemical production.

Continued neglect of ecological aspects of the AZRF industrial activities resulted in heavy pollution of many Russian Arctic urban areas. Russian environmentalists pointed out 27 impact zones in the AZRF, which are polluted to the extent that serious threats both to local ecosystems and population’s health emerged there (Fig. 1). The most problematic impact zones include the Norilsk industrial conurbation (more than 30% of total pollutants), west Siberian region where oil and gas production is concentrated (30%), the Murmansk region (10%), and the Arkhangelsk region (5%) (Dushkova and Evseev 2011; Sokolov 2013). According to some experts (Kochemasov et al. 2009), around 15% of the Russian Arctic is heavily polluted.

Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.

The AZRF impact zones. Source: This figure was designed on the basis of Sokolov (2013, p. 19).

Citation: Weather, Climate, and Society 13, 4; 10.1175/WCAS-D-21-0004.1

Note that the Russian northern municipalities pay little attention to the human dimension of their CCA/SD strategies, identifying mainly the ecological and economic challenges and risks. The societal/human security problem is rarely reflected in the municipal strategic documents, and it is often limited to civil defense programs, which are mainly about protection of city residents from natural disasters and technogenic catastrophes (Severodvinsk City Government 2010; Vorkuta City Government 2014; Murmansk City Government 2013). Very rarely, some city strategic documents mentioned the need to take care of citizens’ personal security by adopting measures to curb street violence and other criminal activities (Severodvinsk City Government 2010; Murmansk City Government 2013).

As the AZRF municipal development strategies demonstrate, most northern cities and towns favor intensive international cooperation in the field of CCA and SD. These northern subnational actors identify the following international institutions and forms of cross-national cooperation: the UN-related bodies (UN Development Program, UN Environment Program, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, etc.), subregional institutions (Arctic Council, Northern Forum, Nordic Council, Nordic Council of Ministers, Northern Dimension partnerships, and Barents Euro-Arctic Council), scientific organizations and initiatives (International Arctic Scientific Council, International Polar Year, International Arctic Social Science Association, etc.), region-to-region and company-to-company contacts, city twinning, and so on. The Russian Arctic cities and even relatively small towns and other municipalities consider cooperation with foreign partners as not only a means of solving specific problems, but also an important instrument of their capacity building and long-term CCA/SD strategy (Joenniemi and Sergunin 2014, 2016).

5. Conclusions

First and foremost, most AZRF urban centers have accepted the CCA and SD concepts and try to apply them in their development plans/strategies. However, note that Russian northern municipalities still lack special CCA/SD strategies, preferring either to have sections on various aspects of climate adaptability or sustainability in their strategic documents or develop specific target programs that address concrete CCA/SD-related problems. For this reason, some important economic, environmental, and social/human dimensions of urban CCA/SD strategies are often missing or not properly harmonized with one another.

It is obvious that to properly cope with the climate change challenges, the AZRF urban settlements should develop CCA/SD strategies of their own in the form of either special documents or separate sections in their development plans. Such documents should have a detailed list of concrete measures to adapt to climate change. It should be noted that, as the recent Russian Arctic doctrine demonstrates (Putin 2020), a CCA strategy has already been formulated at the federal level.

The AZRF cities consider strategy planning and having adequate urban developmental programs as an important policy priority. Although, they sometimes resist Moscow’s pressure to develop unified strategies for the whole region. Instead of having twin-like documents, they prefer to tailor their municipal strategies based on the local needs and realities.

Many northern municipalities have managed to establish proper legal frameworks, institutions, and procedures for strategy formulation and realization, including planning offices within city administrations, clearly defined goals and division of responsibilities between various administrative units, indicator and monitoring systems, and power-sharing with regional and federal authorities.

The new strategy planning system was helpful in the successful implementation of some municipal projects (mostly of ecological and economic nature) during the last decade. Generally, there was an obvious trend from the AZRF municipalities’ short-term survival tactics to long-term capacity-building strategies. However, it would be premature to state that the AZRF municipal strategy planning system is perfect and in line with the best international standards. The “complaint list” is still long and it includes numerous problematic issues. For example, there is still a gap between strategy formulation and implementation. Unfortunately, a large number of municipal CCA/SD-related programs are of declarative nature and only a few of them were executed in full.

We should also mention the nontransparent character of the municipal strategy planning procedures as well as insufficient involvement of citizens in this process. Unfortunately, both strategy formulation and realization are still of the hierarchical character (the top-down approach still dominates over the bottom-up one). Moreover, the monitoring and feedback mechanisms are often missing or inadequate. In turn, this can lead to mistakes in identifying strategic priorities and the lack of public support for the city administration’s initiatives. In terms of planning theory, this means that the rationalist/technocratic approach is still dominant among the AZRF urban planners, although, some elements of the advocacy and humanist approaches can be traced as well.

The AZRF municipal planning offices are often understaffed and lack expertise in strategy planning. For this reason, the AZRF municipalities have to look for external expertise and ask some Moscow-based and Saint Petersburg–based analytical centers to develop CCA/SD strategies for them, although, these centers may be unaware of the local needs and realities.

One more common problem is that the AZRF municipal developmental programs lack proper funding, and they are not always backed up by financial and administrative support from the top tiers of the Russian government. The Russian northern cities hope that the launch of 12 national projects in 2018 can help to solve this problem by integrating the local CCA/SD strategies to larger regional and federal programs.

In summary, although there are numerous problems with organization of an effective strategy planning system at the municipal level, the AZRF urban centers are generally cognizant of the need to develop proper CCA/SD strategies. They do their best to reorganize and further improve their planning strategies in order to solve existing socioeconomic and ecological problems and ensure the adaptability and sustainability of the AZRF cities and the region at large. However, there is more to do, and northern cities should learn from one another’s experiences, as the different approaches can be helpful in developing adequate CCA strategies at the urban/local level.

Acknowledgments

This paper is based on the study done in the framework of several research projects: 1) Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR) and Foundation “Maison des Sciences de L’homme” (France) project 20-514-22001; 2) RFBR and Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Germany) joint project 21-514-12001; 3) U.S. National Science Foundation PIRE project 1545913; 4) the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies/Kone Foundation Research Fellowship; 5) EU Erasmus+ Jean Monnet project GRASS 587697-EPP-1-2017-1-RU-EPPJMO-PROJECT; and 6) EU Erasmus+ Jean Monnet project TERRA 611949-EPP-1-2019-1-RU-EPPJMO-PROJECT.

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Save
  • Administration of Severodvinsk, 2017: Minitsipal’nye programmy (municipal programs). http://severodvinsk.info/?idmenu=48.

  • Administration of the Urban Settlement Nickel of the Pechenga District, 2014: Postanovlenie no. 81: O Munitsipal’noi Programme “Munitsipal’noe Upravlenie i Grazhdanskoe Obshestvo Munitsipal’nogo Obrazovaniya Gorodskoe Poselenie Nikel Pechengskogo Raiona Murmanskoi Oblasti na 2015-2020 Gody”, 17 dekabrya (Resolution no. 81: On the municipal program “Municipal Governance and Civil Society of the Municipal Entity—Urban Settlement Nickel of the Pechenga District, Murmansk Region, for 2015-2020”, December 17).

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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Emelyanova, E. E., 2014: Finansovaya osnova munitsipal’noi investitsionnoi politiki v gorodakh krainego severa (Financial basis of the municipal investment policy in the high north cities). Arktika Sever, 15, 1534.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Flood, J., 1997: Indicators program 1994–96. United Nations Center for Human Settlements, 51 pp.

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    • Export Citation
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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Orttung, R., Ed., 2017: Urban Sustainability in the Arctic: Visions, Context, and Challenges. George Washington University Press, 522 pp.

  • Orttung, R., Ed., 2020: Urban Sustainability in the Arctic: Measuring Progress in Circumpolar Cities. Berghahn Books, 310 pp.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Prakash, M., K. Teksoz, J. Espey, J. Sachs, M. Shank, and G. Schmidt-Traub, 2017: Achieving a sustainable urban America: The U.S. Cities Sustainable Development Goals Index 2017. Sustainable Development Solutions Network Tech. Rep., 35 pp., https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.25012.09601.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Putin, V., 2020: Ukaz Prezidenta RF ot 26 oktyabrya 2020 g. no. 645 “O Strategii razvitiya Arkticheskoi zony Rossiyskoi Federatsii i obespecheniya natsional’noi bezopasnosti na period do 2035” (RF President’s decree no. 645, October 26, 2020 “On the Strategy for the Development of the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation and Ensuring National Security up to 2035”). 42 pp., http://static.kremlin.ru/media/events/files/ru/J8FhckYOPAQQfxN6Xlt6ti6XzpTVAvQy.pdf.

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  • Reich, M., 1975: A noisy tale of two cities. Planning, 41, 811.

  • Ruiz, L., N. Peñan, A. Navarro, and A. Grigorescu, 2014: Human development European city index: Methodology and results. Rom. J. Econ. Forecast., XVII, 7287.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Salekhard City Administration, 2007: Reshenie ob utverzhdenii strategii sotsial’no-economicheskogo razvitiya goroda Salekharda—Administrativnogo tsentra Yamalo-Nenetskogo avtonomnogo okruga na 2007-2012 gody i do 2020 goda (The decision on the approval of the strategy for the socioeconomic development of Salekhard—The administrative center of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Area for 2007-2012 and up to 2020). 227 pp., http://www.salekhard.org/upload/medialibrary/8ba/8ba43d95c5fc43a137bc05248f26a89b.pdf.

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    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sergunin, A., 2018a: Indexing Arctic urban sustainable development planning strategies: The case of Russia. The Arctic Yearbook 2018, L. Heininen and H. Exner-Pirot, Eds., Northern Forum, 75–85.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sergunin, A., 2018b: The interplay of the human security and sustainable development concepts: The case of Russia’s Arctic industrial centers. Human and Societal Security in the Circumpolar Arctic: Local and Indigenous Communities, K. Hossain, J. M. R. Martín, and A. Petrétei, Eds., Brill, 50–75.

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