Voluntary Commitments

Voluntary commitments are one of the core elements of The Ocean Conference, aiming to accelerate the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 and its seven targets. Any action taken towards sustainable oceans, seas and marine resources since the inception of Agenda 2030 can be registered at https://oceanconference.un.org/commitments/.

Commitment announcements are also welcome at the Our Ocean Conference in Malta

As the first HELCOM country, Sweden registered a commitment for the SDG 14 Conference.

Designation and enhancement of implementation of the Baltic Sea as NOx Emission Control Area for ships and public-private partnership

HELCOM countries have committed to cutting 80% of NOx emissions from ships operating in the Baltic Sea in order to combat the problem of eutrophication in the region. HELCOM together with its partners will promote the green shipping technology and use of alternative fuels to further reduce harmful exhaust gas emissions and greenhouse gases from ships.

Partners involved in the commitment are Denmark, Estonia, European Union, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Sweden. HELCOM Observers active in HELCOM MARITIME working group are invited as partners to this HELCOM voluntary commitment.

The International Maritime Organization approved the Baltic Sea NOx Emission Control Area (NECA) proposal by the HELCOM countries in 2016 with an effective date of 1 January 2021. The North Sea NECA has been agreed in parallel. The final IMO agreement on the adoption of the two NECAs is expected in July 2017.

Eutrophication, caused by excessive inputs of nutrients, is a serious environmental concern and a priority for action by the Baltic Sea countries working in HELCOM. The measure will result in reduction of 22,000 tons of annual total nitrogen deposition to the whole region, as a combined effect of the Baltic and North Seas NECAs. Out of this, 7,000 tons is estimated to be reduced directly to the sea surface.

The NECA regulations target new ships built on or after 2021 and do not address existing ships. A two-decade long period of fleet renewal is needed before the regulation will show the full effect. Parallel work to promote the green shipping technology and use of alternative fuels, as means of compliance with NECA, will be undertaken by HELCOM and in the region to facilitate emission reductions ahead of the regulatory schedule.

A regional public-private partnership on green technology and alternative fuels for shipping called HELCOM GREEN TEAM has been established for this purpose. The NECA regulation brings a new momentum and a demand to intensify the public-private partnership. The new work plan of the partnership, adopted in 2017, aims to promote public and private co-operation at national and Baltic Sea levels to enhance development and uptake of green technology and alternative fuels in shipping, including LNG. The work will be undertaken jointly by HELCOM countries in co-operation with other regional governmental and non-governmental organizations, the industry and research community.

Deliverables of the commitment are:

  • A proposal by the HELCOM countries to IMO to designate the Baltic Sea as a NOX Emission Control Area (document IMO MEPC 70/5/1, submitted 27 July 2016)
  • A requirement for new ships operating in the Baltic Sea to meet the Tier III emission standards of MARPOL Annex VI (pending adoption by IMO MEPC 71) (January 2021)
  • Establishment of HELCOM Maritime sub-group on green ship technology and alternative fuels (GREEN TEAM), development of public-private co-operation and consideration of effective incentives to accelerate green investments.

Resources mobilized towards commitment include expert input by the Baltic Sea countries and industry and other stakeholders to follow-up NECA and to the public-private platform HELCOM GREEN TEAM and implementation of its work plan.

Start date of the voluntary commitment is 1 January 2021 for the Baltic Sea NOx Emission Control Area and 1 March 2017 for promoting green shipping and use of alternative fuels.
There is no end date.

Read more on shipping and airborne emissions.

Sweden – commitment to meet Sweden's MPA target

Sweden has committed to designate areas to protect the harbour porpoise. Four new MPAs are established and two existing MPAs are expanded to suit conservation needs. With this commitment Sweden will meet the national targets for SDG 14.5 and the marine part of the CBD Aichi target 11. See more at: https://oceanconference.un.org/commitments/?id=13892#sthash.HV7XmFHn.dpuf

Spatial protection is central to the biodiversity agreements in the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan, and the designation of marine protected areas (MPAs) has been a key instrument for the protection of biodiversity in the Baltic Sea for more than 30 years. Today the area protected through MPAs has reached 12%.[2] However, the protection is not evenly distributed between sub-basins or between coasts and open sea, and the aim remains to reach the target in all offshore sub-basins.

The harbour porpoise population in the Baltic Sea is critically endangered according to the HELCOM Redlist, with indications that the sub-population in the Baltic Proper is facing extinction. Fisheries bycatch and contamination by pollution are the main threats to the population. Establishment of MPAs for protection of harbour porpoises is a recommendation of HELCOM Recommendation 17/2 'Protection of harbour porpoise in the Baltic Sea Area'. 

The Swedish commitment will contribute to implementing:

 Related information