Political ambition and actions fall short in the updated Baltic Sea Action Plan

20 October – Lübeck, Germany – The updated plan to achieve a Good Environmental Status of the Baltic Sea lacks strong commitments to protect one of the world’s most threatened marine ecosystems, say WWF and the Coalition Clean Baltic (CCB). 

The updated Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) [1], intended to ‘drastically reduce pollution to the Baltic Sea and restore a good ecological status by 2030’, was adopted today by Ministers of Environment and Senior Government Officials from all Contracting Parties of the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM) and the Commissioner for Environment of the European Union in Lübeck, Germany. According to WWF and CCB, the BSAP actions fall short, and a much stronger political ambition is required for the coming 9 years.

“Originally, the proposed measures did indeed include many of the ambitious actions and tough decisions that are so urgently needed. Over time, however, lack of political will and ongoing political and economic disagreements between sectoral ministries have successively weakened the plan” says Mikhail Durkin, Executive Secretary, Coalition Clean Baltic .

Out of all measures included in the original Baltic Sea Action Plan, only 25% of national measures have been implemented by all countries. Whilst the actions that the Contracting Parties will take are outlined in the updated plan, clear political commitments on the implementation of those actions are crucial to ensure that measures are followed through on a national level.

In their Baltic Shadow Plan [2] and letter to the HELCOM Ministers, NGOs and scientists [3], NGOs have outlined what they believed to be some of the major failures [4] of the plan and traced these failures to the lack of political will and leadership of the governments.

In order for the Baltic Sea environment to improve, Contracting Parties need to significantly reduce the cumulative, negative impacts from human activities and support the development of a minimal impact, climate-resilient and zero-carbon world.

Despite the plan’s overall shortcomings, WWF and CCB maintain that the original intention of the BSAP remains valid and urges Heads of States and Heads of Governments around the region to take responsibility to initiate a process to actually deliver what was originally promised by their governments – to take dramatic action to save the Baltic. ”The plan contains important measures like protecting 30 % of the Baltic Sea. To reach this goal, cooperation and commitment on a regional level is of the utmost importance” says Valerie De Liedekerke, Manager and Interim Director of the WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme.

For further information:

Valerie de Liderkerke, Interim Director, WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme, valerie.deliedekerke@wwf.se

Hannah Griffiths Berggren, Communications Manager, WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme hannah.griffiths.berggren@wwf.se

Mikhail Durkin, Executive Secretary, Coalition Clean Baltic mikhail.durkin@ccb.se

Federica Pastore, Communication Officer, Coalition Clean Baltic federica.pastore@ccb.se

Notes to the editors:

CCB – Coalition Clean Baltic is a politically independent, non-profit association, which unites 23 member organizations and 1 observer, with over 850,000 members in all countries around the Baltic Sea. The main goal of CCB is to promote the protection and improvement of the Baltic Sea environment and its natural resources. More info at www.ccb.se

WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme – is an ambitious and highly influential force working to conserve and restore the health of the Baltic Sea. The programme is comprised of WWF and NGO partners in each of the nine coastal Baltic Sea countries. Representing the region’s largest membership network, the programme’s approach has been to work with public and private sector partners toward ensuring a healthy, productive Baltic Sea through sustainable, ecosystem-based management. More info at: https://www.wwfbaltic.org/

The update process – HELCOM launched the Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) process nearly two years ago and WWF and CCB have been active participants in the ongoing stakeholder process to develop the plan. WWF and CCB participated as official HELCOM Observers to the Ministerial Meeting today, and WWF delivered a joint statement made on behalf of the environmental NGOs, stating the concern that this plan lacks the very tough actions and commitments that are needed to achieve its objectives. For more detail on the background, goals and objectives of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan please visit: http://www.helcom.fi/BSAP/en_GB/About_BSAP/

[1] The updated Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP):
https://helcom.fi/baltic-sea-action-plan/

[2] The Baltic Shadow Plan: For the future of the Baltic Sea –
https://ccb.se/2020/03/the-baltic-shadow-plan-for-the-future-of-the-baltic-sea/

[3] Letter to HELCOM Ministers, NGOs and scientists – 
https://ccb.se/2021/09/letter-from-ngos-and-scientists-calls-for-baltic-sea-ministers-political-commitment-to-take-action-for-the-baltic-sea/

[4] Major failings highlighted to the HELCOM Contracting Parties have included:

  • No concrete measures for how countries will ensure implementation of the BSAP (for example ensuring funding and HELCOM capacity-building).
  • No concrete measures on how countries will ensure a “green recovery” post-Covid.
  • Lack of concrete, ambitious and measurable climate change adaptation and mitigation actions. The ministerial declaration should contain clear adaptation and mitigation commitments like for example phasing out oil and gas production in the region.
  • Weak formulation of commitment to the global environmental goals. The Baltic Sea states should clearly state their commitments to:
    • reaching the goals of the Agenda 2030, not just by contributing to the implementation
    • reaching the goals of the Paris Agreement