From left: Moderator Mark Levengood, Annamari Arrakoski-Engardt, Keit Pentus-Rosimannus, Roleff Kråkström, Amanda Rejström, Paula Lehtomäki, Henrik Normann Photo: Taija Turkia, SuomiAreena

From left: Moderator Mark Levengood, Annamari Arrakoski-Engardt, Keit Pentus-Rosimannus, Roleff Kråkström, Amanda Rejström, Paula Lehtomäki, Henrik Normann Photo: Taija Turkia, SuomiAreena

18 Jul 2019

Baltic Sea: Going through a very tough hangover

“Our cooperation and actions for reducing the eutrophication of the Baltic Sea can serve as a textbook on how to turn around negative environmental development”, said Henrik Normann, president & CEO of NIB, in a debate at Finland's political summer festival SuomiAreena in Pori.

The 17 July debate titled "Building bridges over polluted waters – How can Nordic initiatives save one of the dirtiest seas on the planet?” was organised by Nordic Council of Ministers, Moomin Characters and Nordic Investment Bank.

“By solving the eutrophication of the Baltic Sea, we can show that it is possible to turn the tide, allowing our countries to transfer cleaning technology to other regions of the world,” Mr Normann says.

Direction good, speed not enough

Annamari Arrakoski-Engardt, Secretary General, John Nurminen Foundation, said that if humankind is the reason for the problems, it is also the solution.

“We are going in the right direction. The state of the Baltic Sea has improved - while we have not achieved ecologically good state for the Baltic Sea yet, we have been able to reduce the amount of nutrients. The situation in the Eastern part in the Gulf of Finland is much better now than it was ten or fifteen years ago. The direction itself is good, it is the speed that is not enough,” Ms Arrakoski-Engardt said.

Roleff Kråkström, CEO, Moomin Characters reminded that the amount of the water in the Baltic Sea is relatively low compared to other seas.

“We have the problem of the eutrophication here now, but there is no point in waiting until we have it in the Atlantic and the big oceans as well. So let us start now in the Baltic Sea, which is a very small and contained sea, and develop routines, jurisdiction, cooperation between nations and technologies that can then be scaled in order to prevent this problem of spreading to the big oceans, which will happen,” Mr Kråkström said.

Cooperation is key

Paula Lehtomäki, Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers talked about how her organisation supports different corporate projects to diminish the amount of plastic, litter.

“It is also very important that we discuss the need of a paradigm shift of our economies—that we need to move towards more circular and bio-based economies. It is a change on a system level, which is not an easy thing to do, but politically it has been set as a goal,” Ms Lehtomäki said.

“That is neither easy for humans nor societies, as it is much easier to continue what we are doing. That, I think, is the biggest obstacle.”

Keit Pentus-Rosimannus, Member of Parliament in Estonia, thinks of the Baltic Sea as an organism or a body going through “a very tough hangover”.

“In the body, there are a lot of substances, a lot of ingredients that are simply too much, while there is also not enough of other substances and ingredients. We can theoretically add those necessary ingredients to the Baltic Sea, when it comes to oxygen, for example, but we cannot really remove the unwanted stuff quickly,” Pentus-Rosimannus said.

Stop asking whose responsibility it is

Amanda Rejström, CEO of Spark Sustainability, said personal climate actions can be a driver for decision-making in politics and business.

“The reason is that we need to create a pool for our new technological solutions; we need to create a pool for these large political decisions that need to be made in order to stop climate change and to tackle the crisis that we’re facing with the Baltic Sea,” Ms Rejström said.

“As humans, when we are near the fire, we do not swing into action because we see the smoke. We swing into action when we see other people rushing in with water. We are social beings. When we see our friends or somebody sitting next to us acting and actually doing something, whether in their own everyday life, or investing their money, or through their company, that is when we get ‘oh, we have to act now’.”

“This is the idea behind Spark Sustainability and also the reason why Spark is part of Moomin Character’s #oursea campaign to save the Baltic Sea. Because so many of the things that we need to do in order to stop climate change are also needed in mitigating the Baltic Sea. Climate change will make the eutrophication problem even worse, so by mitigating climate change we are also thinking about the Baltic Sea.”

“We should stop asking whose responsibility is it. Taking care of our planet is something that we do together. For companies it should not be a question of is it us who have to do it, but rather a possibility to engage with all of the consumers who are passionate about wanting to live better, to consume better, to identify themselves with something better,” Ms Rejström said.