International Cooperation

Black Carbon Diesel Initiative in the Russian Arctic

Black carbon, also known as "soot," results from the incomplete combustion of organic matter such as fossil fuels and biomass. Black carbon causes significant environmental harm and impacts human health in the Arctic. When deposited on snow or ice, it reduces the reflection of sunlight, causing further warming and increasing the rate of melting.

Mobile and stationary diesel engines are among the largest sources of black carbon emissions in the Arctic. Across the diesel sector, substantial black carbon reductions are possible. To address this challenge, EPA is leading the Black Carbon Diesel Initiative under the Arctic Black Carbon Initiative (ABCI). The ABCI also includes initiatives led by the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with support from the U.S. Department of State.

EPA is engaging with partners from government agencies, U.S. Arctic and Russian universities and non-governmental organizations, Russian and Arctic stakeholders, and indigenous communities on a four-step project to reduce diesel black carbon emissions in the Russian Arctic through 2015. Specifically, EPA and its partners are:

  1. Conducting initial scoping and assessment of primary sources of black carbon in the Russian Arctic,
  2. Developing a baseline emission inventory for black carbon from diesel sources,
  3. Implementing targeted, on-the-ground demonstration projects for reducing black carbon from diesel, and
  4. Establishing policy recommendations and financing options for reducing black carbon from diesel sources.

Each of these phases is explored in the tabs below.

EPA's work in the ABCI focuses in the Russian Arctic, but the project includes broader collaboration to reduce diesel black carbon emissions across the Arctic.

About Black Carbon

Black carbon is formed by incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biofuels, and biomass. Part of the mixture known as soot, black carbon is the component of particulate matter which most strongly absorbs light, causing warming of the atmosphere. In addition, when black carbon is deposited on snow and/or ice, it reduces the amount of sunlight that would ordinarily be reflected, causing further warming and increasing the rate of melting, which has significant implications for ice and snow melt in the Arctic. Black carbon also has significant human health impacts.

Mobile and stationary diesel engines are among the largest sources of black carbon emissions in the Arctic.

  • Off-road mobile sources include locomotives, ships, construction vehicles, and farming equipment, all using diesel fuel.
  • On-road mobile sources include vehicles such as cars, buses and trucks.

Across the diesel sector, substantial black carbon reductions are possible. For example, in the United States, changes in fuel quality and composition, advances in engine design, and use of emission control technologies can reduce black carbon emissions from heavy duty in-use diesel engines by up to 99 percent. These efforts also lead to improved air quality and corresponding improvements to public health.

Because black carbon remains in the atmosphere for only a relatively short time, when emissions of black carbon are reduced, atmospheric concentrations of black carbon decrease almost immediately. Therefore, reducing black carbon emissions can help prevent near-term warming and associated effects on snow, ice and precipitation. Reducing black carbon also improves human health by decreasing the adverse effects of black carbon on respiratory and cardiovascular health, including premature death.

History of the Arctic Black Carbon Initiative (ABCI)

Within the framework of the Copenhagen Climate Summit in December 2009, Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, announced the Administration’s intention to commit $5 million towards international cooperation to quantify emissions and impacts of black carbon from fossil fuel and biomass burning and to reduce black carbon emissions and the associated warming effects in and around the Arctic through the launch of the ABCI.

The U.S. Department of State has prioritized reducing black carbon in the Russian Arctic, and has sought EPA's expertise in reducing diesel emissions to address this challenge. The U.S. Department of Energy is also responding by developing collaborative programs on combined heat and power to attempt to address some of the key residential sources of black carbon. The U.S. Forest Service is working on reducing black carbon from forest fires and agricultural burning in the Russian Arctic. This work also complements ongoing policy and technical work going on in the Arctic Council and EPA's Programs in Russia.

Scoping and Assessment

Project Phase 1: Initial scoping and assessment

In order to address emissions of black carbon from diesel, EPA and its partners first undertook scoping and assessment of emissions sources, critical infrastructure, key stakeholders, and existing data. This initial step included kick-off workshops on diesel black carbon in the Russian Arctic, creating the Technical Steering Group to provide targeted advice and input on the project, a scoping trip with stakeholder outreach, and ultimately a plan for undertaking emissions reductions work. Highlights of this phase are described below.

Kick-Off Workshops

On October 6-7, 2011, EPA engaged in two days of initial workshops in Moscow, Russia on Diesel Emissions, Pollution Mitigation, and Clean and Alternative Technologies in the Arctic. These workshops gathered a broad range of governmental, NGO, and academic participants and experts. The workshops produced meaningful information exchange on:

  • Black carbon assessments in the Arctic;
  • The link between diesel emissions and black carbon;
  • Technologies to reduce diesel emissions of black carbon; and
  • Improving the efficiency of energy systems in remote areas of the Arctic.

The workshops also provided EPA and its partners with expert input on potential demonstration projects in the region, enhancing decision-making capacity for the initiative. Immediately following the Moscow workshop, EPA and some of its partners visited the Arctic cities of Salekhard and Murmansk, from October 9-12, 2011, to engage with local officials and experts on these issues and to learn more about their concerns and ideas for addressing black carbon in the regions.

Stakeholder Meetings

From January 28-February 1, 2013, EPA and its partners held meetings in Murmansk and Moscow with key Russian stakeholders to gather input into the project’s emissions inventory methodologies and potential pilot project ideas. EPA's partners for this effort included Battelle, Murmansk State Technical University, and WWF-Russia.

These meetings were also an opportunity to obtain feedback on the project’s workplan. After the meetings, the workplan was updated and finalized based on the input received.

Learn more about these meetings, our partners, and moving forward with key stakeholders:

Emissions Inventory

Project Phase 2: Emissions Inventory

EPA and its partners have undertaken an initial assessment of black carbon emissions in the Russian Arctic, and are focused on developing a baseline emissions inventory for diesel engines, including on-road, off-road, and stationary sources. EPA and its partners have assesed quality of existing data, developed a detailed methodology, and conducted a workshop on best practices (see below). The Technical Steering Group and stakeholders reviewed drafts of the emissions inventory methodology. They will also review drafts of the emissions inventory, which is under development.

Based on preliminary data, the team identified the Murmansk Region, which produces approximately 80 percent of the diesel-related BC emissions in the Russian Arctic, as the best location for emissions inventory efforts. This region has strong local government support, experienced local partners, and relatively high quality regional statistics and data.

Workshop: Emissions Inventory Best Practices

From April 15-19, 2013, EPA's partners hosted the Best Practices Training on Arctic Black Carbon: Reduction of Black Carbon from Diesel Sources in Murmansk, Russia. Over the course of this event, participants:

  • Shared information about and discussed emissions inventory best practices around the world;
  • Exchanged information about inventories in Russia;
  • Shared information and discussed BC and PM measurement;
  • Discussed the proposed emissions inventory methodology and potential pilot projects; and
  • Demonstrated emissions measurement techniques.

The workshop contributed to the finalization of the emissions inventory methodology.

Learn more about the workshop:

Demonstration Projects and Recommendations

Project Phase 3: Demonstration Projects

Launch of Transport and Clean Air Seminar in Moscow, December 2013. Pictured: Alexey Kokorin, WWF, Russia; Vladimir Maximov, Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation, and Neilima Senjalia, US EPA.

As a next step, EPA and its partners are identifying and implementing up to three demonstration projects. These demonstration projects will reduce black carbon emissions in the Russian Arctic, and improve understanding of emission reduction opportunities in the Russian context.

To identify the best projects and technologies, EPA and its partners are considering feasibility, replicability, sustainability, leverage, measurement, local support and capacity, and information gathered during the earlier phases of this effort. EPA will work in conjunction with the Technical Steering Group.

EPA is working with Battelle, WWF-Russia and MSTU on a pilot project with a regional bus company in Murmansk, Murmanskavtotrans (MAT), which decided to purchase more energy efficient buses for its bus fleet after attending the project’s 2013 Emissions Inventory training, thereby reducing black carbon emissions and decreasing Operations and Maintenance costs.

The project addresses transportation, found to be one the largest sources of black carbon emissions from diesel sources in the Murmansk region. Emissions reductions and the economic basis of the project will be documented and a brochure developed for public transportation companies and other stakeholders.

Before project implementation, EPA and its partners convened "Transport and Clean Air," a Circumpolar Workshop held in December 2013. This seminar allowed leading experts to share best practices on reducing emissions of particulates and black carbon from diesel sources in the Arctic.

Agenda and presentations are now available from the workshop and may be downloaded here.

Presentations included:

  • Health Effects of Particulates and Black Carbon
  • Transport emission reduction in a big city: View from Moscow
  • Urban air quality and abatement measures in the city of Gothenburg, Sweden
  • Environmental Standards for Vehicles in the U.S. and Their Impact on BC Emissions 
  • Financing Options for Black Carbon Emissions Reduction Projects 
  • U.S. Diesel Retrofit Program: Incentives to Reduce Large Emitters 
  • VERT Standards and Procedures for Retrofit to reduce Diesel Engine Emissions
  • Fuel and Vehicle Technologies for Air Pollution Reduction 
  • Murmansk Experience in Selecting Low Emission Buses 

EPA is also working with Nordic Environmental Finance Corporation (NEFCO) through the Arctic Council and its Project Support Instrument to support this phase of the initiative.

Project Phase 4: Recommendations

Following the completion of the demonstration projects, EPA will work with its partners, including stakeholders in Russia, to develop recommendations for policy and financing. These recommendations will be based on the earlier phases of this initiative, including the Phase 3 activities.

To formulate the recommendations, EPA and its partners will analyze:

  • Black carbon emissions scenarios,
  • Mitigation options,
  • Specific policy approaches, and
  • Fuel supply systems.

EPA's recommendations will include financing options for diesel black carbon emissions reductions projects and other large-scale solutions. They will also include options for expanding the availability of ultra-low sulfur diesel in the Russian Arctic.


EPA's work on the ABCI:

Teresa Kuklinski
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of International and Tribal Affairs (2670R)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 564-6600

EPA's work with the Arctic Council:

Hodayah Finman
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of International and Tribal Affairs (2670R)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460
E-mail: 564-6600