Water Protection in Agriculture

The problem

The Baltic Sea is heavily affected by eutrophication resulting from excess nutrient loads for many years. About 50% of all nutrients stem from agriculture in the Baltic sea catchment area.

The goal

The overall goal is therefore to reduce nutrient leakage from agriculture to levels that do not cause widespread eutrophication of fresh waters, coastal and marine areas in the Baltic Sea Region.

How are CCB working with this issue?

CCB works actively within HELCOM working groups and Heads of Delegation meetings to uphold the agreed goals and targets in the Baltic Sea Action Plan to reduce nutrient loads. CCB produces and publishes materials regarding eutrophication and agriculture, especially important are large scale animal farms. Industrial Animal Farming is a specific project which aims to prevent the negative consequences of intensive livestock production in the Baltic Sea Region. Please see our separate website: CCB – Industrial Animal Farming

Map of Industrial rearing of poultry and pigs in the Baltic Sea Region

What can countries do together?

Work together to promote ecologically sustainable agricultural practices within the framework of the recommendations under HELCOM. Reform the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) to promote sustainable agriculture via coupling EU agricultural subsidies with requirements to take measures to substantially reduce the nutrient run-off to water from agricultural production.

What can each country do?

Introduce environmental conditionality on all agricultural subsidies, such as requirements for nutrient-balanced fertilization and promote the use of less intensive, organic farming practices.

What can you do?

Support sustainable agriculture by actively asking for and buying products which are certified to have been produced with sustainable methods. Avoid over fertilisering your own garden and using pesticides.

 

Baltic-wide actions needed to reach SDG targets

Today, high-level representatives of the HELCOM Contracting Parties will meet in Helsinki to discuss regional Baltic Sea contribution to conservation and sustainable use of the seas and marine resources by 2030. Actions related to eutrophication, marine litter and climate change will be given special...

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Joint NGO position on Baltic Sea internal loading

Baltic environmental NGOs, represented by Coalition Clean Baltic network consisting of 18 grass-root organizations from 11 countries in the Baltic Sea catchment and the WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme forwarded for consideration of HELCOM Contracting Parties a joint statement regarding the issue of internal load...

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See all CCB Publications about Water Protection in Agriculture in Publications.

publications_ccb

2017

February 28, 2017

To reach the SDGs globally the Baltic-wide actions need to be implemented first!

logo_2rToday, high-level representatives of the HELCOM Contracting Parties will meet in Helsinki to discuss how the Baltic Sea Region can contribute to the global goals on the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources by 2030. Actions related to eutrophication, marine litter and climate change will be given special focus in the discussions.

On behalf of environmentally concerned citizens of the Baltic Sea catchment, Coalition Clean Baltic would like to share some input to this work and bring to the attention of regional decision-makers the urgent needs to be addressed in order to reach the Sustainable Development Goals, (SDGs) and, even more importantly, to save the Baltic Sea from further deterioration.

Read the full statement here.

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2016

October 4, 2016

Joint position of environmental NGOs on internal loading in the Baltic Sea

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WWF, Sweden

 

 

 

04 October 2016, Uppsala/Stockholm

Joint position of environmental NGOs on internal loading in the Baltic Sea

Environmental Ministers and High-Level representatives from HELCOM Contracting Parties at their meeting in Copenhagen in 2013, inter alia

  • agreed to fully implement the 2007 Baltic Sea Action Plan by 2021 and to step up efforts for further strengthened implementation of the BSAP
  • acknowledged that environmental deterioration such as oxygen depletion is increasingly affecting marine life by e.g. accelerating eutrophication through increasing the internal loading;
  • supported development of environmentally sound approaches to remove the nutrients before they enter inland waters and the sea, and to address the internal loading, in coastal areas and semi-enclosed lagoons, as well as in the open sea;

The issue of internal loading was brought up to HELCOM’s agenda with the assumption that most of the reductions on land (both at point and diffuse sources) have been already achieved, e.g. through accomplishment of efficient sewage treatment and excess usage of fertilizer and manure in agriculture being gradually eliminated. Hence, according to the proponents, very limited, costly and constantly diminishing reductions can be achieved using conventional land-based approach, and thus interest on innovative sea-based measures that should be investigated and applied have gained traction.

NGOs strongly believe that the real reason for promoting alternative, sea-based solutions to the eutrophication problem might be tightly connected with observed poor implementation of BSAP MAI/CART commitments and lack of will to enforce stricter HELCOM requirements at national level in comparison to EU law, by some Contracting Parties/EU Member States. This recently became even more evident with several Contracting Parties questioning the MAI/CART scheme that was jointly agreed in 2007 and reviewed in 2013. Another possible reason could be the need to develop and implement ‘novel’ measures, not yet being used in current EU policies e.g. WFD or Nitrates Directive process, in order to be able to feed those into Programmes of Measures under the MSFD.

Meanwhile, cost-efficiency of already applied measures in terms of delivering good environmental status for the Baltic Sea with regards to eutrophication has been very poorly assessed – both at national or HELCOM level. So far only potential economic benefits stemming from implementation of the HELCOM BSAP measures have been evaluated. On the contrary the EU financial support mechanisms in many cases, e.g. in agriculture, cause continued high inputs of nutrients with minor consideration of environmental objectives for the marine environment.

Our understanding is strongly supported by the findings of the recent EU Court of Auditors’ report “Combating eutrophication in the Baltic Sea: further and more effective action needed” (2016), echoed by the EU Council Conclusions on the ECA’s Report, which reflected the following:

  • within 2007-2013 the EU contribution to waste water collection and treatment projects in the BSR was 4.6 billion euro from ERDF/CF, while rural development measures, including water protection measures amounted to 9.9 billion euro from EAFRD.
  • Member States’ plans for achieving HELCOM nutrient reduction targets are lacking ambition as they do not go beyond statutory EU requirements, that do not suite the Baltic-specific needs; those plans are often delayed and vary in level of enforcement, as well as based on insufficient information and lack progress monitoring; moreover HELCOM requirements on sewage treatment and agro-environment measures are not in full incorporated into national legislation in most of the Contracting Parties.
  • None of the Baltic EU MS have reached good ecological status of their surface and ground waters by 2015, as originally set under the WFD and hence reaching in time Good Environmental Status under the EU MSFD is also very questionable, again partly due to lacking coordination with the objectives and activities of the existing regional sea conventions (HELCOM)

On February 12, 2015 the seminar “Sea-based measures to reduce the effects of eutrophication” was arranged by Sweden’s Ministry of Environment, Baltic Sea Centre and Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management with the aim to review nine pilot projects and in light of these, to discuss opportunities and challenges associated with sea-based measures to reduce internal loading. During the seminar it was pointed out by many participants that the Baltic Sea ecosystem is fragile and there is a lack of knowledge about how the flora and fauna will react to these types of substantial human manipulations. Also the risks and uncertainties increase for the ecosystem when the measures applied go from small scale at the coastal level to large scale on the open seas. However, the concluding panel agreed that some offshore activities in the future might be complementary to current land-based measures to speed up the recovery of the Baltic Sea.

Putting it candidly, the internal nutrient load in the Baltic Sea means a recirculation of “old sins”, hence it is a consequence and not a cause of eutrophication. Despite pilot attempts, scientific knowledge is still lacking and vast uncertainty remains about the effectiveness of measures to reduce the internal load, especially for large-scale Baltic Sea wide application. Furthermore, the total costs of the proposed measures have not been calculated, neither any estimates of effectiveness and environmental consequences of proposed measures on the open Baltic Sea ecosystem have been produced. As currently the anoxic “dead” bottom zones extend to several national EEZs and cover an area comparable to twice the size of Denmark, the question remains who should pay for the needed EIA and investments for technical solutions addressing open sea eutrophication.

Despite no formal discussion has been held on internal load within HELCOM since the seminar, HELCOM HOD 50-2016 requested to include issues on internal load into the agenda of PRESSURE 5-2016.

Based on the above and to express the joint Baltic environmental NGOs position on the discussion, we would like to draw the attention to several important points on this issue to reflect upon:

  1. Internal load is not a cause of eutrophication, but it is a consequence of numerous years of mismanagement of nutrient inputs from the Baltic Sea catchment. According to the Baltic Eye’s policy brief “The internal phosphorus load – recycles old sins” (October 2016), the accumulated load of nutrients in the catchment is about 20 times higher than estimated load bound in bottom sediments. Hence, nutrient sources in the catchment will still need to be addressed as being the root cause of phosphorus accumulation on the sea floor.
  2. There is no evidence that the Contracting Parties have taken and implemented all relevant measures to reduce eutrophication, as agreed in HELCOM BSAP – especially from land-based sources (stricter sewage treatment and fertiliser application, nutrient recycling, etc.) and as agreed in Article 6 and Annex III of the Helsinki Convention (1992).
  3. Although positive effects of reduced land-based input could be seen in some coastal areas, there is still a need for further improvement. Measures for continued reduced supply and a more resource-efficient use of nitrogen and phosphorus have effect and are of great importance and should be a priority, not least in order to reduce eutrophication in lakes, rivers and coastal waters in the Baltic Sea Region, in meeting the WFD and MSFD requirements.
  4. Proposed sea-based measures to address internal loading have not proven to be (a) effective, (b) cost-efficient, (c) polluter-specific and (d) harmless in application at a larger scale and in longer-term perspective, hence violating two fundamental principles of the Helsinki Convention, namely precautionary and polluter-pays principle.
  5. Very few end-of-pipe solutions have appeared to be more efficient than source reduction measures. Without curbing nutrient pollution sources we will not be able to cease eutrophication cause (point and diffuse inputs) and hence tackle the consequences at sea (anoxic bottoms, internal loading).
  6. External nutrient reduction before entering the sea is the only truly effective long-term strategy to combat eutrophication. Therefore, we call upon the Governments of the Contracting Parties to follow their commitments under the HELCOM BSAP and demonstrate it with real actions, i.a. finally endorsing Country Allocated Reduction Targets by all the Contracting Parties and implementing nutrient reduction measures stipulated by the Helsinki Convention (1992) and its Annexes.
March 11, 2016

Statement at the 37th Meeting of the Helsinki Commission, 10-11 March 2016

Once again, we would like to share with you the concerns of civil society organizations and over 800,000 individual members of CCB’s network around the Baltic Sea.

Read Statement here: CCB_statement_HELCOM37_2016

2015

November 19, 2015

Funding the EU MSFD Programs of Measures

A crucial part of the coherent implementation of the BSAP and the EU MSFD is the commitment to fund the needed measures to reach the GES targets. CCB is becoming concerned that several CPs being also EU MS have argued at different occasions, including the IG PoM and EU MSCG, that funding is a major problem for implementing the MSFD PoMs.  For a number of reasons CCB considers these claims unjustified.

Read statement here: 4-17 Funding the EU MSFD Programs of Measures_CCB

October 20, 2015

Comments on final draft of the BAT reference document for the Intensive Rearing of Poultry or Pigs

Comments on final draft of the BAT reference document for the Intensive Rearing of Poultry or Pigs (IRPP BREF). Proposal for some rewording in the BAT conclusions 30 to 34.

Read here.

 

June 3, 2015

Proposals for scope of the review and updating of part II Annex III (Prevention of pollution from agriculture) of the Helsinki Convention

HELCOM HOD 47-2015 requested the Agri group to develop a proposal for the review process of part II of Annex III for the consideration by the Heads of Delegation. Once the scope of the review has been decided on by HOD, the revision process could start. The Meeting invited the Contracting Parties to consider co/leading the review/revision work.

Read statement here: 3-25 Proposals for scope of review of part II Annex III of Helsinki Convention

Bernt NordmanFinnish Society for Nature and EnvironmentFinland+358 961 222 90
bernt.nordman@naturochmiljo.fi
Gun RudquistSwedish Society for Nature ConservationSweden+46 8 702 65 00
gun.rudquist@snf.se
Gunnar NorénSenior Advisor+46 70-560 53 52
gunnar.noren@ccb.se
Henrik Butze RuhnenstierneDanish Society for Nature ConservationDenmark+45 63 214 500
henrik@butze.dk
Janis BrizgaGreen LibertyLatvia+371 761 38 06
zeme@latnet.lv
Maret MerissarEstonian Green Movement/ CCB SecretariatEstonia+372 641 34 02
maret.merisaar@ccb.se
Maria StaniszewskaPolish Ecological Club / PKEPoland+48 32 231 85 91
biuro@pkegliwice.pl
Renaldas RimaviciusLithuanian Green MovementLithuaniablueflag@zalieji.lt
Rimantas BraziulisLithuanian Green MovementLithuania+370 37 425 566
blueflag@zalieji.lt
Ruta VaiciunaiteLithuanian Fund for NatureLithuania+3705 231 07 00
ruta.v@glis.lt