The Ministerial Meeting gathers together several threads of
HELCOM work in the past few years, tying them into an overall vision for how to
focus the efforts for a healthy Baltic Sea in the years to come.
In September 2015, the United Nations adopted its Agenda
2030, aiming to promote prosperity while protecting the planet. One of the 17
Sustainable Development Goals of the Agenda is goal 14 – “Life below water”,
which overlaps with the goals of HELCOM’s own Baltic Sea Action Plan
in many ways.
The countries around the Baltic Sea have agreed to use
HELCOM as the regional arena for coordinating actions towards those SDGs that
relate to marine and water issues.
HELCOM started its work on the SDGs by mapping how its
activities contribute to goal 14, as well as other goals such as sustainable
agriculture and water quality, in the recent publication Measuring progress
for the same targets in the Baltic Sea (PDF, 3 MB). At the 2017 Ocean Conference
in New York, HELCOM made three voluntary
commitments in order to speed up work on goal 14, in addition to the
voluntary commitments made by the individual HELCOM countries.
For the Ministerial Meeting 2018, the focus is on what needs
to be done in order to reach the goals: what efforts need to be prioritized,
and how should the current action plan be adjusted?
The HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan
(BSAP) is an ambitious programme to restore the good ecological status of the
Baltic marine environment by 2021. It was adopted by all the Baltic coastal
states and the EU in 2007, and it provides a concrete basis for HELCOM work.
In order to follow up on whether the goals of the BSAP are
reached, HELCOM makes assessments of the marine environment. According to the latest
major 'State of
the Baltic Sea' assessment, much has been accomplished, and there are
some encouraging signals in the ecosystem, but the efforts so far have not led
to the recovery of the Baltic Sea. The Ministerial Meeting will discuss how to
achieve stronger follow-through on the BSAP in order to reach the common goals,
as well as how to adjust the BSAP in the light of new information on what
issues are most important and what challenges are expected to arise in the
During the end of 2018, HELCOM has invited organizations
that are active in the whole Baltic Sea area to give feedback on the State of
the Baltic Sea report and comment on how they are able to use the results. Some
of these results may also be relevant for the preparations ahead of the
Feeding into the preparations for the Ministerial Meeting
are a number of projects funded by the BONUS programme – Baltic
Organisations' Network for Funding Science. Focusing on subjects like
climate change, nutrients, biodiversity, and social and economic analysis,
these projects produce scientific, reliable knowledge that HELCOM can use both
to support its work and to identify what additional knowledge is needed.
The cooperation with BONUS aids the policy-making and the
practical work done towards the goals of the BSAP, as well as the upcoming
adjustment of the BSAP.
For example, a general conclusion from the projects that
will be completed in 2017 and 2018 is that climate change is affecting all
parts of the Baltic ecosystem. The changing climate is expected to affect the
genetic diversity in the Baltic Sea, how species are distributed in the region,
and how resilient the ecosystem is to nutrient loading. This means that when
planning measures for biodiversity and nutrient reduction, the plans need to
include measures to mitigate impacts from climate change.
In June 2017, the 52nd
meeting of the HELCOM Heads of Delegation agreed on the themes for the upcoming
Ministerial Meeting, based on the priorities of the EU
chairmanship in HELCOM.
The drafting groups started their work during the summer. In
addition, the HELCOM Secretariat started preparing a background document taking
stock of how HELCOM agreements have been implemented and comparing that to the
results of the State of the Baltic Sea report.
In online meetings on 26
September and 13
November, the Heads of Delegation continued preparations by discussing the
draft outcome and the background documents.
A new draft of the Ministerial Meeting outcome was discussed
and polished at the 53rd Heads
of Delegation meeting on 12–13 December.
HELCOM report on the UN Sustainable Development Goals: Measuring progress for the same targets in the Baltic Sea (PDF, 3 MB)
Visit the State of the Baltic Sea website or download the report (PDF, 19 MB)