Polar index

The importance of the Arctic has not been adequately assessed in the state’s strategic plans. Authors of the “Polar Index” rating came to this conclusion. “Besides the administrative ‘cover,’ the programs should fix the principles of further exploration of the Russian North.”

Experts from the Project Office for the Development of the Arctic (PODA) and the Economy Department of the Moscow State University (MSU) made an attempt to assess the sustainability of the Russian Arctic development. The sphere of researchers’ interests included the regions fully or partly located in the RF Arctic zone.  


The interest in the Arctic territories so far has mostly economic character: more than 70% of Russian reserves of hydrocarbons and over 60% of non-ferrous and rare metals are located here. Exploitation of these resources is connected with exploration of the Northern Sea Route and creation of the Northern Latitudinal Railway, which, as official sources claim, “should open new horizons for the country’s economy.”


Sustainability ratings appeared in Russia in 2012. Within a few years, more than 185 Russian cities were assessed by the sustainability criteria. The Polar index was the first specialized rating the objects of which were selected not based on territorial division. The researchers evaluated sustainability of the regions in the Arctic zone and of the companies operating in this territory. The five top were the Murmansk Region, Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Arkhangelsk Region, Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District and Krasnoyarsk Krai. Among the enterprises, the top positions got PAO Lukoil, PAO SIBUR Holding, PAO GMK Norilsk Nickel, PAO Rosneft, and PAO AK Alrosa.


The leader of the project group from the Chair of the Economics of Nature Use, Economy Department, MSU, professor Sergey Nikonorov commented on the novelty of the rating of Arctic territories: “Assessing the level of regional development, experts often focus on particular components of sustainable development. Quite typical is that the founding document for any region is named “The Strategy for the Social and Economic Development,” i.e., the environmental aspects are not considered already in the name of the document. That said both the environmental footprint and, for example, gross regional product (GRP) in no way are ‘the measure of all things.’ No less important is what in science is called ‘the index of human happiness,’ and these are indexes of proportional distribution of incomes, life expectancy, and life satisfaction. It is exactly for this reason that in the ‘Polar rating’ we tried to consider sustainable development as a well-balanced connection of all the three components: economy, environment, and social well-being.”


As the researchers claim, the methodology of the Arctic rating is based on the coherent interconnection between the economic, environmental, and social components. Evaluating regions and enterprises, the researchers took into account several parameters: 

- Social and economic (RGP per capita, migration outflow, observance of the rights of indigenous peoples);

- Environmental and economic (the share of expenditures on environmental protection in the budget, the ratio of growth rates of reserves and production of the most important mineral resources, the proportion of renewable sources of resource reproduction); 

- Social and environmental (increase of the life expectancy of indigenous peoples, the presence of regional and municipal programs for adaptation of the population and economic systems to climate change, access to quality drinking water supply).  


The PODA experts believe that the Polar rating is quite essential because, according to them, the necessity to unite the RF Arctic zone in one administrative contour is long past time to do. At that, the analysts consider such unification futureless without a conceptual rethinking of the way for the development of the Arctic.  For the Arctic, with its huge territory, fragile environment, and very tough survival conditions, a social - economic – environmental approach is essential to a much bigger degree than for other territories of Russia, the analysts are sure.


According to the researchers, in the more than 100-page-long text of the project on the “Strategies for the Spatial Development of Russia up to 2025,” the “Arctic zone” word combination appears for only six times. “The discussion on the necessity of a law on the RF Arctic zone has been lasting for six years, while the prospects for adoption of a regulatory act still remain clouded,” the experts say.


The Authors of the rating declared that the next stage of the “Polar Index” will be the presentation of the “public rating” results, i.e., the results of social survey on the basis of well-being of residents of the Russian Arctic. In addition, issuance of an extended rating of companies working in the Arctic and its regular updating also is on the schedule: to monitor the dynamics of companies’ moving forward or backward in the aspects of sustainable development.  


“The Arctic is a special region,” Olga Senova, Climate Secretariat of the Russian Social and Ecological Union, says. “It is extremely important that in planning development milestones, not only economic but also social and environmental interests were taken into consideration. The significance of the region in the global climate matters should be taken into account. It is important to assess the environmental impact of the companies operating in this vulnerable area. And to do this, real actions and not just well-prepared reports should be assessed.”

English version: