HELCOM Heads of Delegation approve Baltic Sea Action Plan update process and welcome new HELCOM Chair
HELCOM says its roadmap for the future took centre stage during the 54th Meeting of the Heads of Delegation (HOD 54-2018) that was held in Helsinki, Finland from 14 to 15 June 2017. A key event on HELCOM's governance agenda, it also saw the handover of the HELCOM chairmanship from the EU to Finland.
Besides the review of current and recently concluded HELCOM activities and the approval of HELCOM reports, a major subject was the update of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan(BSAP) beyond 2021.
The BSAP is HELCOM's comprehensive regional programme of actions to achieve a healthy Baltic Sea, and was initially set to end in 2021. Recalling the agreement taken earlier in Brussels during the Ministerial Meeting 2018to update the current plan, the delegates decided on an extension of the BSAP until 2030.
In addition to the current objectives on eutrophication, biodiversity, maritime activities and hazardous substances, the updated BSAP will incorporate new perspectives beyond 2021 such as focussing on an ecosystem approach and giving due consideration to the economic and social aspects of its measures.It will also address emerging pressures such as underwater noise, pharmaceuticals and micro-plastics.
The update of the BSAP particularly resonates with the region's current desire to step up its efforts for a healthy Baltic Sea, as recently witnessed during the EUSBSR Annual Forum held earlier in Tallinn where a continuation of the plan was already mentioned and welcomed.
Furthermore, the delegates decided to delete the Dalälven Riverin Sweden from the HELCOM list of hotspots, and welcomed the intention by Sweden to continue monitoring the river. It was added in 1992 because of high levels of heavy metals originating from the mining industry – specifically cadmium, copper and zinc – which eventually entered the Baltic Sea.
At HOD 54-2018, a number of HELCOM publications were also approved, including the updated State of the Baltic Sea report. The report contains a wide array of indicators that were assessing the state of and the pressures on the Baltic Sea between 2011 and 2016.
This work on indicators – unique in the world at this scale – was particularly commended by the delegates which tasked the HELCOM Secretariat to draft a document on lessons learnt to be shared with UN Environment.
Other approvals were the Report on nutrients input by seven biggest rivers and the Report on input of selected hazardous substances into the Baltic Sea, two reports resulting from HELCOM's Sixth Pollution Load Compilation (PLC-6) project.
HOD 54-2018 was also the opportunity for the hand-over of the HELCOM chairmanship from the EU to Finland. The delegates acknowledged the accomplishments of the EU chairmanship ending this 30 June, especially the excellent organization of the HELCOM Ministerial Meeting in Brussels in March 2018.
They also welcomed the priorities of the new Finnish chairmanship that will focus on the Baltic Sea Action Plan update, the reduction of nutrient inputs and nutrient recycling, as well as climate change and fostering synergies between HELCOM work and the Agenda 2030.
The new HELCOM Chair will be Ms. Saara Bäck, seconded by the Vice-Chair Ms. Tarja Haaranen, both from the Ministry of the Environment of Finland. The outgoing chair Ms Marianne Wenning from the European Union will retire from active duty this summer.
The HOD 54-2018 Meeting was attended by participants from all HELCOM Contracting Parties and by observers from the Baltic Farmers' Forum on Environment (BFFE), Baltic Sea States Subregional Co-operationand Conference of Peripheral and Maritime Regions – Baltic Sea Commission (BSSSC and CPMR BSC), Coalition Clean Baltic(CCB), Federation of European Aquaculture Producers(FEAP) and World Wide Fund for Nature(WWF), as well as invited guests from the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region(EUSBSR) and Nordic Environment Finance Corporation(NEFCO).
HELCOM is an intergovernmental organization made up of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Union. Founded in 1974, its primary aims as a governing body are to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution, as well as to ensure safe maritime navigation. The official name of HELCOM is the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission; it is the governing body of the Helsinki Convention.
The Working Group on Reduction of Pressures from the Baltic Sea Catchment Area – Pressure group – focuses on nutrient and hazardous substance inputs from diffuse sources and point sources on land, including the follow-up of the implementation of the HELCOM nutrient reduction scheme. The group ensures the necessary technical underpinning as well as develops solutions to the policy-relevant questions and needs. Marine litter and underwater noise are also coordinated by this group.