Published to day by WWF, a report on the status of the Baltic Sea reveals that the Baltic Sea coastal countries are failing to deliver on their commitments for a healthy Baltic Sea by 2021 and show little indication that this will change.
This is not new to TSSEF. We have repeatedly pointed out that the economic system surrounding each Baltic-influencing purchasing decision is weighed towards pollution. In other words, there is no way consumers can be offered Baltic-status positive services and products. This echos the famous line from Bill Clinton: “It’s the economy stupid!”.
Let us recap some of the areas of contention:
Organic agriculture tends to bind more phosphorus and nitrogen in the soil, thereby reducing run-off to the Baltic. Organic food is more expensive. A market-based instrumental approach could bring organic food on a par with chemical agriculture.
Zero run-off agriculture
Many approaches exist even for conventional agriculture to adapt their land to ensure zero run-off. As it stands, EU agricultural policy is not providing the economic incentives for producers to do this, it is rather encouraging intensive use of industrial and chemical approaches that continue to give run-off. Policy changes could produce zero run-off agriculture.
Recycling toilets reduce the P and N load on municipal waste systems considerably. In most places, for reasons of municipal regulations or availability they are not a viable option. Introducing changes to regulations and smart pricing of municipal waste services could change consumer behaviour in less than a decade.
Effective P recovery from rivers and waste water.
Phosphorus in fertilizer costs about 2 Euro per kilo. To remove the last kg from waste water costs up to 1200 Euro. The nature of the final product from waste treatment, along with entrenched practices for all industries involved present barriers to effectively recycling the P back to agriculture. A few changes to hidden subsidies to chemical industries along with stimulus to recycle could mean healthy rivers and streams without costly treatment.
P removal from lake and sea-bed
The technology to remove organic sediment from sea and lake beds exists but needs to be developed to full scale. This technology could provide organic material that can be rotted to produce biogas and possibly help mitigate fossil fuel dependency. The investment needed to realize this win-win is only just starting to be available. Within a few years, a whole new industry removing sediment from the Baltic seabed could be supplying minerals, energy and soil enhancement creating thousands of new jobs.
Employment and economic growth
A Baltic with good status could generate many new green jobs, encourage more tourism and stimulate renewable energy and agriculture industries. Existing structures subsidize existing actors holding back the unlocking of this new potential.
The Foundation urges coastal countries to carry out a review of the economic incentives and barriers to encouraging their economies to transform into Baltic Stewardship