The highest Executive Committee of the BSPC, led by the President of the BSPC, Jörgen Pettersson, held its third meeting under the Åland Presidency – on the invitation of Kari Kulmala, Chairman of the delegation of the Finnish Parliament to the BSPC – in Koli National Park, Finland. Delegations from the Åland Islands, the Baltic Assembly, Denmark, the European Parliament, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hamburg, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Nordic Council, Poland and the Russian Federation participated in the meeting.
27th Annual BSPC in Mariehamn
The main focus was placed on the preparation of the 27th annual Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference, which will take place from 26-28 August in Mariehamn, Åland Islands under the headline: The Baltic Sea – Our Lifeline,
Cooperation, Sustainability and Smart Energy – Three pillars for future development.
The main themes will be: The Vision of a Healthy Baltic Sea – A Call for more Action as well as Sustainable Energy, Smart Energy Distribution Platforms which will focus on the next generation electrical grids – pilot projects on Baltic islands. Numerous highest- and high-level speakers have already agreed to attend the conference. A draft programme will be published in due time.
The Standing Committee also discussed a preliminary draft resolution with calls for action to the governments of the Baltic Sea Region, resulting from the BSPC work since last September. This will be deepened and completed on the basis of relevant events during the next 2 months.
Implementation of the 26th BSPC Resolution
A special focus was placed on the follow-up to the resolution of the 26th annual conference, which took place in Hamburg from 3 – 5 September 2017, and the reports by the national and regional governments about the implementation of the 26th BSPC resolution. Follow-up statements to the 26th resolution have been received from 12 parliaments by now. Further statements will follow. They are more and more comprehensive and partially very detailed. The Standing Committee noted that this was a positive development. All statements are published on the BSPC website.
With regard to one of the priorities in the current BSPC work programme under the Åland presidency and in continuation of the SC deliberations in Brussels on transnational cooperation and macroregional strategies with a special view to environmental topics, Dr Raimo Heikkilä, Leading Researcher, Finnish Environment Institute, and Dr Heli Saarikoski, Senior Research Scientist, Finnish Environment Institute, addressed the SC members at the beginning of the Standing Committee Meeting in a round of presentations about projects by the Finnish Environment Institute and about collaborative practices for environmental decision-making.
Dr Raimo Heikkilä presented a number of interesting projects, significant for the BSR environmental status, pursued by the Finnish Environment Institute – a research and expert institute under the Finnish Ministry of the Environment, in matters of water resources under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
The speaker reported on the process of creating the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) clinic. The original four clinics were implemented by SYKE through the strategic development project Towards Sustainable Economic Systems – key methods and tools, lessons learnt and future outlooks (ToFu). After that initial test, the concept was developed in 30 SME cases in the North Karelia region. By now, he added, that work was being handled by the ERDF project Finnish Industrial Symbiosis System and Model -Y in Northern Savo. Dr Heikkilä went on to say that LCA had become one of the main tools for quantifying the environmental sustainability of products and services. The methodology’s main advantage was that several environmental impacts were assessed simultaneously over the entire life cycle of a product or a service, across its whole value chain. Its holistic nature, though, made LCA a laborious and expensive method, less accessible to start-ups as well as small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Clinics were presently focused mainly on climate change impacts, but other impact categories could also be included easily. The aim was to develop LCA as a role model and to expand it regionally and substantially.
Dr Heikkilä further provided information about the project “North Karelia towards a Fossil Oil-Free and Low-Carbon Region 2015-2018”. The project was realized by the Regional Council of North Karelia in cooperation with the Finnish Environment Institute, aiming to increase the energy efficiency in buildings, the share of renewable energy and the usage of low-carbon and cleantech solutions. He pointed out that the improvement of energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy in municipalities strengthened pioneer markets; moreover, investments could offer references for new products.
The Carbon Neutral Municipalities project (HINKU), the speaker mentioned, had brought municipalities, businesses, citizens and experts together to create and carry out solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In Finland, the emission reduction target was set on a very high level, i.e. -80 % CO2eq by 2030 compared to the 2007 level emissions. Dr Heikkilä emphasised that altogether 39 municipalities had committed, and 9 out of 11 municipalities from North Karelia were included in that programme.
The goal of FRESHABIT LIFE IP, the next project presented by the speaker, was to ensure the preservation of freshwater heritage for future generations by improving the ecological state and biodiversity of the 2000 Natura freshwater habitats. SYKE was one of 31 project partners, under the leadership of the Metsähallitus natural heritage services, with a total budget of that project as high as 24.4 million euros.
Another interesting undertaking mentioned by Dr Heikkilä was the SYKE EnviCal Manager (ECM), an IoT platform developed by the SYKE laboratory centre for research purposes, offering features such as remote data collection and control for almost any measurement device, process automation, real-time monitoring, alarm systems, automated data analysis and many others.
With regard to Finnish-Russian cooperation, the speaker mentioned research projects on e.g. forest and swamp biodiversity and ecology that were funded mainly by the ministries responsible for the topics, the Green Belt of Fennoscandia along the boundary between Finland, Russia and Norway and development projects to support sustainable development and protect the biodiversity.
Karelia intended to implement a number of projects financed by European Neighbour Instrument Cross Border Cooperation (ENI CBC), for instance the Collaborative Data and Information Exchange Network for Managing Invasive Alien Species, the Joint Cross-Border Environmental Monitoring System, Green Nature-Based Solutions in Tourism, Education for Sustainable Water Use. The speaker drew attention to the fact that the projects’ development depended on the ratification of the CBC programme by the Russian Duma, and he expressed his hope that it would come soon.
Ms Valentina Pivnenko assured the audience that, due to the active support by the Karelian Regional Parliament, the legislative process would be completed during the spring session of the State Duma.
Ms Heli Saarikoski from the Finnish Environment Institute presented an interesting approach to environmental governance which was being developed in the ongoing project Collaborative Remedies for Fragmented Societies — facilitating a collaborative turn in environmental governance (CORE). The starting points were fragmented societies confronting difficult environmental problems. The main idea was to create processes and mechanisms to support active citizenship and genuine opportunities for civil society actors to participate in public debate and policy-making processes. The project was founded by the Strategic Research Council at the Academy of Finland with 4.1 million euros in the years 2017-2021. Ms Saarikoski explained that collaborative environmental governance referred to planning and policy-making processes in which governmental bodies as well as market and civil society actors came together to explore collectively the problem area and to arrive at a reasonable way forward from public participation to partnerships and multi-party joint fact-finding and consensus-building processes. The assumption, she noted, was that collaborative governance had the capacity to create wise, fair, legitimate and efficient solutions.
Currently, a number of case studies had been pursued, among them: community development agreements related to mining in the municipality of Sodankylä in Lapland, the national level policy dialogue process on the potential and bottlenecks on increasing the use of renewable energy in Finland, citizen jury process on regional peatland use strategy in South Ostrobothnia in Western Finland and building collaborative capacity in legislative processes (in co-operation with the Ministry of Justice). The speaker pointed out that the parliamentarians on the regional and national level were also involved in the processes of environmental governance.
Information about the Region
Additionally, the Standing Committee was informed about the regional and municipal situation in the region by Mr Risto Poutiainen, Region Mayor, Regional Council of North Karelia, and Mr Jarkko Määttänen, Mayor, City of Lieksa. The delegates were also given information about the Koli National Park by Mr Arto Sihvonen, Welfare Director, City of Lieksa, and received insight into traditional rafting by Mr Jaakko Saaristo and Mr Asko Turunen. In Joensuu, they also learned about the botanic garden “Botania”.