Angela Schultz-Zehden, Managing Director, SUBMARINER Network for Blue Growth EEIG, gave an overview of the developments and goals of the SUBMARINER Network, and briefly introduced the conference declaration. State Secretary Ingbert Liebing, Commissioner of Schleswig-Holstein to the Federal Government, looked forward to a successful conference with a fair, open and honest discussions, as an open process is necessary for a well-informed and critical society.
Jakob Granit, Director, Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management, highlighted the importance to look at the entire system – from source to sea – in order to successfully manage fragile ecosystems in the Baltic Sea Region. Global goals like the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are important for our work but need to brought down to local level. This involves stakeholder ownership with strong collaboration with civil society groups such as HELCOM and other NGOs, but also governmental and private institutions at all levels to bring policy forwards and update legal frameworks. Moreover, innovation systems to encourage SMEs to develop new solutions are needed to progress towards a circular, biobased economy.
Christine Lang, Co-Chair of the German Bioeconomy Council and CEO of Organobalance, stressed the importance of looking at bioeconomy from a global rather than just a regional perspective, particularly concerning legislation and coherence of policy measures. Sustainable bioeconomy entails sustainable living and production of biomass. As Germany doesn’t have access to much biomass, the industry here has to be knowledge-based and innovative, with the “blue” part including cultivating algae resources and biorefineries. Important criteria for a successful bioeconomy include:
- A functioning regulatory framework in order to put innovation on the market
- Public funding
- Promoting innovation by helping SMEs grow
Mathias Bergman, Secretary General of the Baltic Sea Action Group, pointed out that if we as developed countries managed to destroy the Baltic Sea, then we should have the means to restore it (this also goes for the planet as a whole). Nutrients are what we live on, and releasing them into the Baltic Sea is like throwing gold into the sea. Therefore, it is important to recycle these nutrients and we need to switch from a linear economy to a circular one. Solutions include nutrient cycling, which is currently being developed in Finland in different projects and is included in the EU’s circular economy plan. Nevertheless, agriculture has to treat soil in the right way, rather than over-fertilising, the soil needs carbon as well as nitrogen and phosphorous.
Business support for SME’s and raising awareness
It is important to get business leaders to see the potential in blue bioeconomy and for big businesses to commit to investing in SMEs. In general, the regulatory framework has to change since the blue sector often doesn’t follow the same regulations as on-land industry. If you look at the import / export carbon footprint, it is clear that the correlation between economic growth and increase in CO2 is still intact. Therefore, it is important to change consumption patterns make people more aware of sustainable blue products. One way could be a tracking system for fish products, including a certification process. In Finland, the Bioatlas calculates the nutrient “footprint” of Finnish citizens. Bioeconomy has different meanings in different regions, for some it’s a means to create more jobs, for other it is all about sustainability. In order to get a more coherent policy, it is important to connect the different regions. In Sweden, the government has published a two-page declaration with a detailed description on future work on climate change, consumption and water. In Finland, there is investment in nutrient cycling, and in Germany policymakers are working hard to make politics and public aware of the bioeconomy. These actions signal change and a political willingness to act.
How to reduce internal nutrient load?
There has been a big debate on nutrient inflow versus internal nutrient load, but there was a consensus that both need to be address to successfully reduce eutrophication in the Baltic Sea. There are already technologies in place to take up nutrients but a lack in willingness to pay. One solution could be to start a public company listed on the stock exchange where citizens could invest in shares. Nevertheless, big investments are needed, meaning state funding is crucial. The Swedish government are investing 35 million SEK in measures to reduce internal nutrient load and the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management is developing advice and information on how to best decrease internal nutrient load within the EU Water Framework Directive.