BALTIC SEA ACTION SUMMIT (BSAS) – General questions and answers
Q: What is different and better in the BSAS process compared to other high level summits?
A: Saving the Baltic Sea requires the cooperation of all parties:
The Baltic Sea Action Group (BSAG) has concrete pilot projects in the field but there is still a considerable need for concrete projects in every country. Now we are introducing the solution- and cooperation-based practices throughout the entire Baltic Sea area.
The most visible part of the process is the high level summit (Baltic Sea Action Summit, February 2010) where all parties from heads of states to corporate leaders are brought together at the same table with a new approach. The Clinton Global Initiative uses a similar strategy on a global scale. Current methods of saving the sea are too slow.
The sea cannot wait. The HELCOM action plan (Baltic Sea Action Plan) is already made but now it needs to be executed as soon as possible. The Baltic Sea is the most polluted sea area in the world and at the brink of terminal care.
Q: What concrete has already been achieved?
A: BSAG’s solution- and cooperation-based methods are already contributing to the increased safety of maritime activities, reduced agricultural emission and the solving of hazardous waste related problems.
More information on www.bsag.fi.
On a global scale the Clinton Global Initiative has attracted thousands of commitments that have contributed to the development of cleaner energy forms and slowed down the green house effect.
More on the topic: http://www.clintonglobalinitiative.org
Q: What is the aim of the BSAS process?
A: The high level summit is part of a process that aims at gathering as many concrete commitments to save the Baltic Sea as possible. During the process these commitments are prepared and after the summit the execution process is monitored. The idea is to gather all necessary parties around the same table to make sustainable decisions and start taking concrete actions. Another aim is to develop new ways of cooperation. This can be done now when providers of different solutions meet.
Q: What is a “Commitment”? What does it mean in practice?
A: After making a Commitment the company or organization commits to concrete actions to save the Baltic Sea and to become a socially responsible actor. The execution of the commitments is closely monitored. The concrete work on behalf of the Baltic Sea is continued.
Q: What happens after the high level summit in February 2010?
A: BSAG follows and develops further the commitments. The strategy of the BSAS process is the core of BSAG and we aim to accelerate the process constantly. Hence we can say that the BSAS is a constant process, which we will continue until the Baltic Sea is clean and the situation is stable.
Q: Why is the Baltic Sea polluted? Who is responsible?
A: The parties responsible for the current state of the Baltic Sea are all 14 countries in the catchment-area and all people and companies that operate in the Baltic Sea or around it.
The overall responsibility of the sea does not belong to anyone, unlike for example lakes within the borders of a country. No one “owns” the Baltic Sea and there is no single “Baltic Sea homeland” that would have the responsibility to restore the sea. The Baltic Sea is still almost within one entity, the European Union. This is why it could be seen reasonable to expect the European Union to strongly participate in the saving process. This participation should obviously happen in a constructive and equal manner together with Russia.
In addition HELCOM (the governing body of the Helsinki Convention) is the only entity that has the EU, Russia and all other bordering states as members. HELCOM has developed an action plan that is accepted by all members, so HELCOM mainly represents a “Baltic Sea Government” that has agreed on what to do. However HELCOM is not an executive body and to replace this gap, the Baltic Sea Action Group (BSAG) was founded. It is an approach that is independent, based on extensive cooperation with the public and private sectors and an important catalyst for achieving concrete actions. It could be said that BSAG is the executive part of HELCOM.
Q: How does this affect your life?
A: The state of the Baltic Sea of course affects the life of an individual and the ability to enjoy the sea. For many people the most shocking part is the toxic blue green algae layers that prevent swimming during summertime. The difference between the current state and the clear blue waters of childhood memories is alarming. The fish stock has diminished and is still in danger. Hazardous toxins flow from the coast into the sea where it accumulates in fish. Already eating of Baltic Sea fish is restricted due to the toxin levels. A similar situation applies to other fauna of the sea.
The state of the Baltic Sea also indirectly affects the use and allocation of tax funds. Necessary salvation processes are becoming more and more expensive – it would be most sensible to execute these processes now.
We might reach a point when returning to the current state might be ten times more expensive than it is now.
Q: Would there not be better use for the money during the global recession?
A: The Baltic Sea cannot wait for the global economical state to be stabilized. We feel that the state of the Baltic Sea should be treated as any other major crisis. For example during the economical crisis the automotive industry can be saved with a one-day notice of hundreds of millions euro or dollars beforehand. Why would the Baltic Sea’s catastrophically bad state be treated any differently? Can we afford to be the generation that allowed the Baltic Sea to die?
When the money is tight the smart allocation of funds becomes even more important. Salvation measures taken, sooner or later, are becoming more and more expensive – it would be best to execute them now. We might reach a point when returning to the current state might be ten times more expensive than it is now. This is why we want to accelerate all actions taken with a new approach and spread it around the Baltic Sea area.
During a recession actions can be targeted to other invigorating projects that help the Baltic Sea and have a positive effect on employment and a refreshing effect on the economy. A best-case scenario is that the public sector can invest in wise recovery measures that not only help the Baltic Sea but also have a multiplicative effect on the employment and is not just a one-time investment.
Q: What can be done for the Baltic Sea?
A: Companies and public entities are needed for concrete actions and turning declarations into doing. One can donate money for the protection of the sea or donate an idea that will help the sea.
Q: What is HELCOM?
A: The Helsinki Commission, HELCOM, works to save the Baltic Sea from polluting with extensive cooperation between governments. All the bordering states of the Baltic Sea and the European Union are members of HELCOM (Denmark, Estonia, EU, Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Russia and Sweden). HELCOM is the governing body of the Helsinki Convention.
More information: http://www.helcom.fi/helcom/en_GB/aboutus/
Q: Isn’t climate change more important than the Baltic Sea? How are the Baltic Sea and the Global Climate crisis connected?
There is interdependency between climate change and the problems of the Baltic Sea so we must fight to change both: climate change might reduce the effect of emission reductions that were previously seen necessary.
The Baltic Sea salvation process works as a great example of a multinational environmental problem that must be solved before it is too late – or before the cost of the cleaning process is tenfold. Also the nations in the Baltic Sea area, all very different from each other, must be able to agree on mutual measures that need to be taken. Companies must also take part and individuals must behave and consume in a way that the Baltic Sea is not harmed. If we succeed in this we have proven that with enough determination the prevention of climate change is also possible.
The Baltic Sea and climate change also have similarities in their effects. The increase in rain during wintertime, the decrease of ground frost and the rise in temperature increase nutrient run offs. This in turn weakens the condition of the already eutrophicated sea. A good example of this kind of a winter was the very warm and extremely rainy winter of 2007/2008. The loads of nutrients from the Vantaa river were high at that time: the phosphorus loads were almost four times higher and the nitrogen loads three times higher compared to a normal winter.
Warmer summers can also reinforce the eutrophication process and increase the blue-green algal bloom. Increase in fresh water run off can decrease the salinity of the surface layers of the sea and thus note the sea unnaturally stratified. This in turn will have an enhancing effect on the lack of oxygen in the deeper parts of the Baltic Sea.
Q: What does BSAG do?
A: BSAG acts, as an initiator and/or a catalyst in multiple, parallel and concrete projects. BSAG is an independent actor. Helping in this process are political forces regardless of political ambitions, heads of states throughout the entire Baltic Sea area, public servants and other officials, NGOs, private individuals, power players of the economic world and companies. BSAG guides the know-how and resources of the private sector to concrete actions throughout the entire Baltic Sea area. BSAG thus efficiently combines the public, private and civil sectors and their resources and opportunities. Actions taken are based on best available knowledge.
Q: What does the HELCOM Action Plan include?
A: HELCOM’s action plan has four main parts:
Questions about BSAS and the BSAS Process:
Secretary General, co-founder
Baltic Sea Action Group
+358 50 545 0323