Nordic Cooperation

The Nordic Countries share a long-running tradition of environmental cooperation. Cooperation takes place in the areas of

  • climate change mitigation and adaptation
  • the risks posed to humans and the environment by chemicals and chemical substances in products
  • protecting the oceans and marine resources
  • preservation of biodiversity and
  • promotion of circular economy and sustainable consumption and production.

These countries also cooperate in the fields of spatial planning and building.

From the viewpoint of the Ministry of the Environment, the most important cooperation body is the intergovernmental Nordic Council of Ministers. At the same time, the Nordic Council acts as the countries' interparliamentary body.

Within the Nordic Council of Ministers, environmental issues are the responsibility of Ministers of the Environment, who convene approximately two times a year. Nordic cooperation participants include Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland, and Åland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland.

Nordic environmental cooperation is based on the Programme for Nordic Co-operation on the Environment and Climate, the vision adopted by the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2019 (Our Vision 2030) and the sustainable development strategy of the Nordic Countries and the surrounding areas.

Six permanent working groups have been set up to conduct environmental cooperation:

  • Nordic Working Group for Circular Economy (NCE)
  • Nordic Working Group for Climate and Air (NKL)
  • Nordic Working Group for Chemicals, Environment, and Health (NKE)
  • Nordic Working Group for Biodiversity (NBM)
  • Nordic Working Group for Oceans and Coastal Areas (NHK)
  • Nordic Working Group for Environment and Economy (NME) (jointly with the finance sector)

Finland held the Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2021. During the year, the Ministry of the Environment supported and sustained the ambitious targets of the Nordic countries in international environmental and climate cooperation. For example, the Ministry of the Environment promoted the conservation of forest habitats in the Barents Region and initiated a study on the possibilities and tools of the Nordic financial systems for promoting the protection of biodiversity.

The environment prize and the ecolabel

The annual environment prize of the Nordic Council is granted to a person or organisation that has promoted environmental protection. This award's theme varies from year to year.

The purpose of the Nordic ecolabel, The swan, is to provide the most objective information possible on the environmental effect of goods and services. It is the first multinational ecolabel.

Nordic cooperation in Russia, the Baltic Countries and Arctic regions

The Nordic Countries also consider it important to resolve environmental issues in their neighbouring regions. The Nordic Council of Ministers is an observer on the Arctic Council and monitors the operations of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council. In their cooperation with neighbouring regions, the Nordic Council of Ministers, the Arctic Council and the Barents Euro-Arctic Council participate in the implementation of the EU's Northern Dimension action plan.

Actions taken by the Nordic Council of Ministers in Arctic areas are directed by the council's Arctic co-operation programme.

The Nordic Environment Finance Corporation (NEFCO) and the Nordic Investment Bank (NIB) are funding environmental projects in the surrounding areas.

Cross-border cooperation and land use planning  

Cross-border cooperation of the Nordic Council of Ministers takes place under 12 cross-border committees. Finland participates in the work of six cross-border committees: Kvarken Council, North Calotte Council, Mid Nordic Committee, Tornedalsrådet (River Tornionjoki valley), Bothnian Arc and Skärgårdssamarbetet (cooperation in the archipelago). Cross-border cooperation includes environmental projects as well. Finland has a long history of cooperation in transboundary waters based on agreements concluded with Russia, Sweden and Norway.

For a long time, there has also been active cooperation between the Nordic land use planning and zoning authorities. The themes of their annual meetings include land use and zoning in the Nordic countries, urbanisation, housing, and legislation on land use and building and construction. 
The key focus of the Nordic regional policy programme is on issues where there is added value to be gained from Nordic collaboration. One of the priorities of the cooperation programme is cities and urban development.

Nordregio is a Nordic research institute focusing on regional development and land use planning.

Building and construction

In recent years the ministers responsible for building and construction and housing have met on an annual basis. In their statements the ministers have stressed the important role of low-carbon construction and a circular economy. In spring 2020 a Nordic steering group was set up to coordinate the work on promoting the harmonisation of building codes and regulations. The Nordic countries have also decided to strengthen their cooperation and influence in the EU contexts.

Finland has the main responsibility for the three-year (2021-2023) Presidency project Nordic Networks for Circular Construction. The aim of the project is to promote a circular economy in the construction sector, develop and create new cooperation networks and share good Nordic practices on sustainable construction.

The Ministry of the Environment is active in Nordic cooperation on low-carbon building between public officials and different stakeholders.

More information

Bo Storrank, Ministerial Adviser 
Ministry of the Environment, Ministerial Governance and International Affairs Department, International and EU Affairs Telephone:0295250346   Email Address: