The Clean Baltic Sea Club 2013: Good news from the Gulf of Finland. The Clean Baltic Sea projects will continue beyond 2015

Photo by Max Edin: Helena Aatinen, Fortum and Peter Fagernäs, JNF Board.
Photo by Max Edin: Helena Aatinen, Fortum and Peter Fagernäs, JNF Board.

On September 10, 2013, The Clean Baltic Sea Club, now held for the fourth consecutive year, gathered in Fortum’s head office in Espoo. The Clean Baltic Sea Club is John Nurminen Foundation’s annual event for sponsors, partners and other key stakeholders. This year the event was hosted by Fortum, a long-term sponsor of the Foundation’s Clean Baltic Sea projects.
Helena Aatinen, Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications, opened the afternoon. “The investment in the protection of the Baltic Sea is an investment in the environment of present and future generations. Moreover, we believe that the John Nurminen Foundation’s Clean Baltic Sea projects provide an excellent platform for engaging in an active dialogue with different stakeholders in the Baltic Sea region.”

Signs of recovery in the Gulf of Finland

Juha Nurminen, Chairman of the Board, John Nurminen Foundation, said that even if most of the nutrient discharges to the Baltic Sea come from agriculture, the fastest and the most cost-effective way to help the Sea continues to be addressing the greatest point sources of phosphorus. “There is good progress in the Gulf of Finland. The work needs to continue but at the same time we need to get more momentum to the central sea area, that is, the Baltic Proper. Geographically, the focus of the Clean Baltic Sea projects will remain in Russia, Poland and Belarus – continuing on nutrient removal from point sources. “

According to HELCOM, if we want to see clear waters by 2021, 9,000 tons still need to be cut from the annual phosphorus load to the Baltic Sea. Nurminen summed up the Foundation’s focus in a first-aid recipe with which major reductions can be achieved already in the next few years. The first priority to tackle the point sources is for the water companies across the catchment area of the Baltic Sea to make sure that wastewaters are treated in line with HELCOM recommendations. The second is to prevent phosphorus discharges from the gypsum stacks of the fertilizer industry, especially in Gdansk and Szczecin in Poland.

Lea Kauppi, Director General, Finnish Environmental Institute SYKE, confirmed that the condition of the Sea has partially improved. “Even taking annual variability into account, there are signs that show positive development, particularly in the coast of Gulf of Finland. One has to be patient – but the direction is right.”

Major oil catastrophe minutes away

The Tanker Safety project has moved on to the implementation phase. With that, the project lead has now been transferred from the Foundation to the Finnish Transport Agency. The Foundation still continues to oversee the implementation, in other words, making sure that the system is taken into use on most of the tankers on the Gulf of Finland during the year 2014.

What has been created within the project is ENSI (Enhanced Navigation Support Information), a system that builds upon Finnish Transport Agency’s current Gulf of Finland Reporting System (GOFREP). The idea is to provide a platform and service that makes it easy for a tanker’s master to send his route plan for a check with a third party. Currently, this does not happen so potential faulty route plans are not detected.

The Gulf of Finland is one of the busiest sea areas in the world. Tiina Tuurnala, Deputy Director General from Finnish Transport Agency, told that the current economic downturn has not had an influence on the oil transportation figures. On the contrary, traffic volumes are growing all the time. In 2012, there were 300 risk situations, and in 20 of these grounding were prevented. Tuurnala referred to one close-call case in last October, when a Greek tanker m/t Lovina was very close to causing a major oil disaster on the Gulf of Finland.
The accident was avoided thanks to an alert operator at the Finnish VTS center. The operator noticed that the tanker’s route was suspicious and contacted his Russian colleague, who immediately alerted the tanker to change course. If the ENSI service would have been in use at that moment, that situation would not have occurred because the system would have warned the master against the outdated route plan and directed the tanker to deeper waters.

Strong vision needed to drive truly green economy

In her keynote, Lea Kauppi stated, “If we are serious about green economy, profound changes in current thinking and actions are needed. Public sector should promote structural changes.
Public policies can plan an important role by supporting forerunners, for instance, in getting good references which helps them to win business. Finland has a great history of success stories. Kauppi gave forest industry and waste water treatment as good examples. In terms of environmental practices, Finnish paper industry has been a forerunner simply because they were aware of the requirements well in advance, and had a motivation to develop the technology to fulfill and even exceed them.

Kauppi pointed out that Finland usually excels in implementation, whereas Sweden as a nation has been able to create a clear long-term vision and then go ahead. This is to lacking today in Finland. Challenges are more complicated and interlinked. Mining industry, most recently the case Talvivaara, is an important reminder on what can happen when coherence between national and local interests and public and private sector is missing.
Kauppi called for courage and vision, “We should set the targets ambitiously enough.”


Responsibility cannot be outsourced to public sector

Continuing on the theme of public-private partnership, the Club also featured a panel discussion on corporate responsibility. Ilkka Ahtiainen from MTV3 News acted as a moderator, and the panelists were Heli Antila, CTO, Fortum, Anne Berner, Chairman of the Board, Vallila Interior, Liisa Jauri, Head of CSR at Nordea and Hannu Syrjänen, Member of the Board, John Nurminen Foundation.

Anne Berner said that for non-quoted companies, there is more freedom to make a stand in terms of corporate responsibility. However, all companies do have an obligation to be competitive and this cannot be compromised.
For Berner, The New Children’s Hospital 2017 where a private foundation is raising funds to complement public funding, is also a very personal project. She compared the two initiatives, The New Children’s Hospital 2017 and the Clean Baltic Sea Projects, as in both cases, there’s a strong will and passion to do something concrete for the benefit of the entire society. What comes to funding, if private money can catalyst positive development, it should be welcomed. Panelists strongly disagreed with claims that public funding for private initiatives could jeopardize tax payers’ moral and willingness to pay taxes.
Fortum is a major player in nuclear energy but at the same time develops and promotes sustainable energy solutions. Said Heli Antila, “We don’t see a conflict in this since we believe that the global energy system is developing step by step towards a solar economy. All resources including energy have to be used as efficiently as possible. The primary way to produce energy should be renewables. However, this does not reduce the carbon footprint of human actions fast enough. We have to have a realistic approach to what is the solution today and what steps are needed when moving towards the long-term vision. In the coming years, nuclear power will be part of this solution and will therefore continue to complement our portfolio.

Six completed projects, fundraising continues

Erik Båsk, Secretary General, closed the day with update on the Foundation’s fundraising status. Funds raised by the Foundation in 2005–7/2013 totalled 9.1 MEUR. 6.9 MEUR of the funds have been used. With these funds, the current Projects on Eutrophication and the Tanker Safety project were launched. Of the 21 eutrophication projects six have already been completed. The Foundation has also initiated two EU funded projects, PURE and PRESTO. Their total budget is 7.2 MEUR, of which 3 MEUR are direct investments on waste water treatment plants). Pro bono work donations, which value is not included in these figures, continue to be very important.

The Foundation continues to raise funds for future projects and is actively looking for new projects in the catchment area of the Baltic Sea. According to the decision of the Foundation’s Board, the Foundation will continue it work beyond the year 2015.