Enhancing the environment

The environment of the Nordic and Baltic countries is naturally influenced by the projects carried out in the region and elsewhere through transboundary and global impacts. NIB therefore promotes projects that enhance the environment in its member countries.

A project is seen as enhancing the environment when it has a direct or indirect positive environmental net impact. Also, R&D projects focusing on benefits for the environment and projects promoting the development of a sustainable society are important. When assessing the environmental impacts of loan projects, NIB’s analyses focus on:

  • improvements in resource and energy efficiency
  • development of a low-carbon economy
  • protection of the environment and its ecosystem services
  • development of clean technology.


Resource and energy efficiency are key in dealing with climate change and in achieving the EU’s 2050 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% below 1990 levels.

In 2015, NIB financed several projects and a loan programme for financial intermediaries aimed at improving the energy efficiency of public and commercial buildings. One example is a loan signed with Fastighets AB ML4 for the construction of the MAX IV research laboratory as part of Lund University in Sweden. The office building at the MAX IV laboratory was certified according to the BREEAM-SE scheme, a Swedish adaptation of an international certification system for green buildings. MAX-lab is the first building in Sweden to be certified according to BREEAM. The building reached the level “outstanding”, something which only 2% of all certified buildings manage.

In the Republic of Lithuania, NIB participated in financing renovation programmes to reduce the use of heat by an average of 33% and 240 GWh per annum for 4,000,000 square meters of apartments. The loan also includes renovating 49 public buildings estimated to result in heat savings of 13 GWh annually.

Many of NIB’s environmental loan projects in 2015 supported the transition to a low-carbon economy, including public rail transport infrastructure projects and renewable energy projects. The above-mentioned loan to the City of Vantaa for the construction of the Ring Rail Line offers a more environmentally efficient mode of transport, which is assessed to result in a decrease of approximately 11,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.

In 2015, NIB also financed the modernisation of 36 SJ 2000 trains in Sweden. As a result of the modernisation programme, the capacity of the SJ 2000 carriages will increase by 13.5%, while their electricity consumption will decrease by 5%. This investment will offer high-quality travel on rail between Stockholm and Gothenburg/Malmö and a more attractive alternative for passengers to switch from air to rail, which would significantly decrease the energy usage and emissions of carbon dioxide per voyage.

An example of a renewable energy project financed in 2015 is a loan to Lyse AS for the construction of a new hydroelectric power plant in an already regulated watercourse at the innermost end of Lysefjord in Forsand municipality, southern Norway. Increasing hydropower generation in an already regulated watercourse is an environmentally efficient way of generating electricity. The project is estimated to increase the electricity generation capacity by 14% and 180 GWh annually, resulting in an annual reduction of carbon dioxide emissions of 2,000 tonnes.

NIB also aims to protect the environment and its ecosystem services by financing projects that reduce emissions of pollutants. In 2015, two loans in Finland were provided for the construction of new wastewater treatment plants.

The Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority (HSY) is constructing a new wastewater treatment plant in the City of Espoo for the wastewater from 400,000 inhabitants in the Helsinki metropolitan area. The new plant will replace the old plant in Suomenoja. The treatment objective for nitrogen removal is over 90% and for phosphorous removal over 96%. The project is assessed to reduce the annual nitrogen load to the Baltic Sea by 300 tonnes.

In the City of Mikkeli in eastern Finland, Mikkeli Waterworks will construct a new wastewater treatment plant to replace an old plant. The treatment process will be based on membrane bioreactors that permit high treatment efficiency. The project is assessed to reduce the annual phosphorous and nitrogen loads into Lake Saimaa by 400 kg and 81 tonnes, respectively. In both cities, the treatment units will be built underground in caverns, which will reduce their odour and noise impacts on the surroundings.

In Norway, a loan was provided to Elkem to upgrade two furnaces at the Salten plant in Straumen, northern Norway, and a furnace at the Bremanger plant in Svelgen, western Norway. The technical improvements are expected to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides into the air by 40%.

Greenhouse gases and other environmental parameters

As part of its environmental review, NIB calculates the emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere from all projects considered for financing. These emissions may occur either directly, e.g. due to fuel combustion or production process emissions, or indirectly through purchased electricity or heat. The emissions are prorated to NIB’s share of the financing in order to avoid double-accounting with other co-financiers. The carbon footprint of all reviewed projects is reported in the loan documentation to NIB’s management and Board of Directors for decision-making.

In 2012, the major international financial institutions agreed on a harmonised approach to project-level greenhouse gas accounting. Since then, technical working groups have developed sector-specific accounting principles for renewable energy (RE) projects, energy efficiency (EE) projects and for the transportation sector. The new harmonized approaches were announced in November 2015 at the COP21 conference in Paris. NIB has participated actively in the work.

In 2015, the majority of NIB’s environmental loans were related to projects promoting climate change mitigation in the member countries. These comprised energy efficiency projects, public rail transport projects and renewable energy projects in the hydropower and waste-to-energy sectors.

NIB-financed energy projects will add 0.53 TWh annually to renewable energy generation. NIB estimates that the loans agreed in 2015 are helping to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 50,100 tonnes annually, prorated to NIB’s share of the financing.

The percentage of NIB’s total lending volume allocated to climate change mitigation projects amounted to 33%. The increase in carbon dioxide emissions resulting from the projects financed by NIB in 2015 is assessed to be 59,000 tonnes annually. The largest contributor was the infrastructure investment and terminal expansion at Helsinki Airport that will increase the airport’s capacity.

Financing of the two new wastewater treatment projects in Finland is assessed to reduce the annual nitrogen load directly to the Baltic Sea or its catchment area by 380 tonnes. This equals about 6% of the annual nitrogen load to the Baltic Sea from point sources in Finland. The furnace upgrade project in Norway is estimated to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions into the air by 1,060 tonnes, equalling a reduction of 40%.

The charts below summarise the climate impact of the Bank’s financing.

C02* impact of NIB’s financing

NIB_2015graphs_pilar_CO2- impact of NIB’s financing