The Working Group on Climate Change and Biodiversity discussed the questionnaire for a fact-gathering survey among the governments of the Baltic Sea region that will help make their reports informative and useful. Furthermore, calls for action by the governments were determined to promote, among others, a healthy and environmentally sound Baltic Sea region. More than 40participants from the Åland Islands, the Baltic Assembly, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, the German Bundestag, Hamburg, Iceland, Kaliningrad, Karelia, Latvia, Lithuania, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the Nordic Council, Norway, Poland, the Russian Federation, Schleswig-Holstein and Sweden attended the meeting.
Chairwoman Cecilie Tenfjord-Toftby opened the meeting that exclusively dealt with procedural questions concerning the future work of the Working Group on Climate Change and Biodiversity.
Questionnaire and Schedule for the Planned Survey Among Governments
The Working Group had previously determined to survey BSPC governments for information to feed into the group’s work. Proposals for questions had been provided by several delegations. A scientific expert had been consulted, suggesting a narrower focus on ongoing processes. The governments should explain how exactly they were working to achieve their goals. Some suggestions were grouped as climate goals, biodiversity, shipping as well as explosive ordnance and plastic waste. In particular, the issue of climate law in the various BSPC member states and regions was of concern, in light of a recent decision of the German Supreme Court to address future generation’s wellbeing in present-day laws. Another concern was international cooperation, not least in support of developing countries.
The meeting determined that the questions would be reworked to concentrate on governmental actions to reach the goals, both already and yet to be implemented. The deadline for a response from the governments was set as the end of 2021.
Calls for Action by the Working Group
The chairwoman stated that the German Bundestag’s and the Swedish delegation had submitted recommendations for action to combat climate change and promote biodiversity. In line with the consensus principle, the Working Group agreed on those recommendations where there was no difference of opinion. These would become part of the interim report to the 30th BSPC Annual Conference in August 2021. Some recommendations were deemed too broad and would be reworked to seek approval in time for the mid-term report. In that regard, Ms Tenfjord-Toftby underlined that agreement should come from the home parliaments rather than just the members of the Working Group. Any recommendations left without a consensus could be discussed in more detail in subsequent meetings and, if unanimous consent could be reached, feed into the calls for action of the final report.
Agreement was found for calls to support the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; promote science-based regional and local projects to improve and preserve marine and land-based ecosystems; gain commitment in all parts of society through information; support the development of technology to reduce Baltic Sea eutrophication; further reduce ship emissions; and support investments in hydrogen technologies. The need for cross-border efforts was also stressed.
In the discussion, it was highlighted that the BSPC’s calls for action concerned not only members of the European Union but also Iceland, Norway and Russia with varying goals set for e.g., climate neutrality. Discussion arose around the issue of replacing fossil fuel and nuclear power plants with renewable resources. The matter of zero-use areas in the Baltic Sea was raised as an example recommendation that might find general approval, considering a recent vivid expert contribution explaining that current such areas did not in fact limit many uses.
Possible Extension of the Working Group Mandate until 2023
Chairwoman Tenfjord-Toftby explained the extension of the Swedish presidency into 2022, as recently agreed by the Standing Committee of the BSPC. Due to the general elections in Sweden in that year, the annual conference would be held earlier than usual and take place in June. This would limit the time available for the Working Group on Climate Change and Biodiversity to finalise their end report.
Given the great importance of the topic, the Working Group chose to ask the Standing Committee to expand their mandate by another year in order to achieve a higher-quality end report that would be useful for governments, business and civil society.
The Working Group agreed on the preliminary version of its interim report to the 30th BSPC Annual Conference comprising a compilation of the WG’s work up to the present meeting, featuring the contents of the expert presentations and the core decisions.
After discussing the draft programme for the next meeting of the Working Group in October, which was changed to digital form again, the third meeting decided to set the spring meeting of 2022 in Åland.