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Baltic Sea

Region's countries

The Baltic Sea cooperation area stretches from central parts of Europe up to its northernmost periphery. The 2021-2027 cooperation area includes almost the whole territory of the previous Interreg Programme (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, northern Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Sweden, Norway), except for previously included areas of Russia*, Belarus* and the northern territories of Norway.

 

*As of 8 March 2022 the Transnational cooperation with Russia and Belarus is suspended.

 

Policy framework

1.     Transnational cooperation programme

The Interreg Baltic Sea Region (BSR) Programme (2021-2027), approved on 2 June 2022 by the EU Commission, aims to put innovative, water-smart and climate-neutral solutions through transnational cooperation into practice. The BSR Programme focussed on four priorities:

  1. Innovative societies
  2. Water-smart societies
  3. Climate-smart societies
  4. Cooperation governance

Climate change adaptation is partially covered under priority 2 (water-smart societies) and its related objectives of “sustainable waters” and “blue economy”. Indeed, the programme supports actions that improve water management practices to reduce risks of water pollution, aggravated by climate change as well actions to strengthen the resilience of blue economy businesses.

Moreover, under priority 3, actions that promote energy transition and smart green mobility, while mainly targeted at climate change mitigation, also offer relevant opportunities for adaptation. They aim to tackle issues such as resource saving in terms of energy efficiency and sustainable transport modes.

Finally, the Programme supports actions that implement and strengthen governance and communication activities in the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR). Under priority 4, these actions may facilitate policy discussions and trigger cross cutting policy changes, to achieve the strategy’s objectives.

Support for the implementation of the EU macro-regional strategy (EUSBSR) was already ensured through the previous Interreg Baltic Sea Region (BSR) Programme (2014-2020), that was focused on the following four priorities:

  1. Capacity for innovation;
  2. Efficient management for natural resources;
  3. Sustainable transport;
  4. Institutional capacity for macro-regional cooperation.

Climate change was covered under priority 2, being relevant for several issues included there, such as water management, pollution and eutrophication, energy sustainability and efficiency, and blue growth. Climate change and sustainable development were included as one of the horizontal principles endorsed by the Programme. 

 

2.     Macro-region strategies

The EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) aims to reinforce cooperation within the Baltic Sea region to promote a more balanced development in the area, to contribute to major EU policies and to reinforce integration within the region. The EUSBSR is accompanied by an Action Plan that is periodically revised. The strategy is aligned with the European Green Deal and the objective of making the EU climate neutral by 2050. In this regard, all actions that address climate change and promote sustainable development are integrated into the strategy as a whole. ‘Save the Sea’, ‘Connect the Region’ and ‘Increase Prosperity’ are the three main objectives of the Strategy, while “climate change adaptation, risk prevention and management” is one of the nine sub-objectives recalled by the 2021 Action Plan. Due to its cross-cutting nature and increased importance, climate change aspects is mainstreamed as essential element into all the 14 policy areas identified by the plan.

 

3.     International conventions and other cooperation initiatives

The countries part of the region are, except from Norway, also contracting parties of the Helsinki Convention, which is the ‘Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area’ which additionally include Belarus, not currently included by the BSR Interreg Programme. The convention aims to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution through intergovernmental cooperation. It covers the whole Baltic Sea area, including inland waters, the water of the sea itself and the seabed. The convention is governed by the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM), which has a number of initiatives related to climate change adaptation, Those initiatives include  regular regional assessments of climate change and its implications for the Baltic Sea. EN-CLIME is a joint expert network by HELCOM and Baltic Earth, founded in 2018, that functions as coordinating framework and platform for issues related to the direct and indirect effects of climate change on the Baltic Sea environment. The expert network provides expertise for a closer dialogue with policy makers. The 2021 Fact sheet on climate change in the Baltic Sea, prepared by this network, provides a summary for policy makers of the latest scientific knowledge on how climate change is currently affecting the Baltic Sea and how it is expected to develop in the future.

The Baltic Sea Commission under CPMR (Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions), promotes a strong role for the member regions in the design and implementation of the EU Macro-regional Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region and multi-level governance in achieving its three objectives. Climate change is specifically addressed by the Working Group Energy & Climate.

The Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) is a political forum for intergovernmental cooperation in the Baltic Sea region. It includes 11 member states (8 of them are also Members of the EUSBSR strategy) as well as the European Union. Founded in 1992, it aimed in a first instance at supporting the transition of the Baltic Sea region into the new international landscape after the end of the cold war. Its current mission is supporting “a global perspective on regional problems”. Thus, it translates translates international treaties as, among others, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Climate Agreement, and the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction, and  the EUSBSR strategy  into regional actions on the ground. Between 2016 and 2021, the CBSS coordinated the Horizontal Action Climate of the EU Strategy for Baltic Sea Region. From January 2021, climate was mainstreamed into all policy areas of the EUSBSR. CBSS continues to encourage and facilitate multilevel policy dialogue on climate issues, involving national and local authorities, business and research community, youth organisations, as well other pan-Baltic actors.

The UBC (Union of the Baltic Cities) is the leading network of cities in the Baltic Sea Region. Its “Sustainable Cities” Commission is active through its policy area ”Climate change” which aims to strengthen cooperation and networking at the local level. . The commission supports local authorities in their climate work, offering trainings on integrated management for local climate change response to UBC member cities. It also facilitates the exchange of experiences regarding the implementation of the Covenant of Mayors commitments.

Since 2016, annual BSR Climate Policy Dialogue Platform Round-table meetings, specifically dedicated to climate change adaptation, have been held. They involved representatives from ministries, government agencies, business, academia, and pan-Baltic organizations including, among others, HELCOM, CPMR and UBC.

 

4.     Adaptation strategies and plans

The Baltadapt project, which had been financed under the INTERREG IV B Baltic Sea Programme 2007-2013, produced an adaptation strategy for the Region, which was accompanied by guidelines and a non-binding action plan. The 2014 CBSS high level political meeting endorsed the adaptation strategy in the document ‘Decision by the Council of the Baltic Sea States on a review of the CBSS long term priorities’. The Baltadapt Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change for the Baltic Sea Region is one of the few examples of transnational adaptation strategies in Europe. The strategy intends to complement national and sub-national adaptation processes in the Baltic Sea region, in particular by improving coordination across levels and sectors by means of information sharing and development of networks.

Moreover, the 2021 Action Plan that complements the EUSBSR comprises 14 policy areas covering in total 44 actions. Due to their cross-cutting nature and increased importance, climate change aspects (as cooperation with neighbouring non-EU countries) are mainstreamed as essential elements into all 14 policy areas..

The Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP), adopted by the HELCOM Contracting Parties in 2007 and updated in 2021, is HELCOM’s strategic programme of measures and actions for achieving good environmental status of the Baltic sea. Climate change is addressed by the plan as a cross-cutting issue. Several measures that are designed to strengthen the overall resilience of the Baltic Sea, aim to  improve its ability to respond to the effects of climate change.

 

Examples of projects funded in the 2014–2020 period.

The Projects that dealt with climate change adaptation within the INTERREG VB Baltic Sea Programme (2014-2020) were funded under the Priority 2 - Efficient management for natural resources (NOAH Project) and 4 - Institutional capacity for macro-regional cooperation (CAMS Platform, CASES BSR, CLIMATEALIGNED, WATERMAN SEED projects). They are focussed on a wide range of issues, including the development of synergies between adaptation and mitigation in the energy sector, the development of adaptation strategies and guidelines both for municipalities and private enterprises, and the improvement of water management systems to improve the resilience against the risks of extreme events and flooding.

The CAMS Platform Project (Climate change adaptation and mitigation synergies in Energy Efficiency Projects 2019-2022) aimed to advance the energy auditing, the qualification programme of housing renovation and policy dialogue for mitigation and adaptation synergies in housing renovations and service sector. Energy efficiency measures in buildings are recognised as solutions that address some of the vulnerabilities to climate change impacts and also counteract the increased energy demand. The CAMS Platform provides access to data of pilot energy audits of buildings and premises elaborated in the Baltic Sea Region in 2020-21.

The CASES BSR Project (Climate Adaptation Support for enterprises in the Baltic Sea Region, 2020-2021) addresses the issue on how climate change affects Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and the increasing needs to adopt climate adaptation strategies for a long-term sustainability. The project investigated how various types of SMEs are currently managing this issue in the Baltic Sea Region, in order to map the foremost needs of support among SMEs.

The CLIMATEALIGNED Project (Climate-aligned budgeting at municipalities, 2020-2021) aims to deliver a concept for guidelines for municipalities, where budget decisions can be examined in terms of climate relevance over a long time horizon. This concept aims to support planning decisions and budget proposals in terms of their relevance for climate mitigation and adaptation, in a more systematic way.

The WATERMAN SEED Project (Climate resilient wastewater and groundwater management and groundwater management by circular approaches, 2020-2021) develops and promotes circular approaches to reduce outflows of nutrients and hazardous substances to surface water, groundwater and the Baltic Sea. The project focuses on measures to increase water retention and re-use of water from wastewater treatment plants. Those measures increase the resilience of local water supply systems of the Baltic Sea Region that may be affected by climate change.

The NOAH project (Protecting Baltic Sea from untreated wastewater spillages during flood events in urban areas, 2019-2021) improves spatial planning and the operation of urban storm water runoff and drainage systems. Those measures aim  to reduce pollution caused by extreme weather events, such as heavy rains and floods that are exacerbated by climate change. The project has brought nine towns and water utilities, seven academic and research institutions and two umbrella organisations from six countries around the Baltic Sea together to join their forces in the creation of a concept for holistic planning that combines storm-water management with spatial planning. This is followed by the development of smart drainage systems to make the existing facilities resilient to the impacts of climate change.

Storm-water management was also faced by the EUSBSR flagship project iWater (Integrated Storm Water Management), which ran from 2015 to 2018, within the INTERREG V A Central Baltic Programme 2014-2020. It  includes a significant portion of Central Baltic in its cooperation area (consisting of parts of Finland, Sweden, Estonia and Latvia). The project aimed to improve urban planning practices in the cities of the Baltic Sea region through the development of an integrated storm water management system. The project delivered the Integrated Storm Water Management Toolbox that provides both general and detailed information on urban storm-water management approaches.