The Baltic Sea Challenge
In 2007, the Cities of Helsinki and
Turku committed to concrete voluntary action for the coastal waters and the
entire Baltic Sea. This commitment resulted in the Baltic Sea Challenge. The
Baltic Sea was addressed in the cities’ strategic work, the City of Helsinki’s
strategy programme and the City of Turku’s climate and environment programme.
This joint Action Plan for the Baltic Sea comprised 37 concrete actions divided into nine themes, and approximately a dozen civil service departments and administrative branches from both cities were tasked with carrying out these actions. The two cities undertook to reduce their contribution to nutrient loading from point and diffuse sources, and the emissions from shipping and boating, in addition to developing their oil spill preparedness and response, and increasing research, awareness and cooperation in order to improve the state of the coastal waters and the entire Baltic Sea. The work is coordinated by the Environment Centre in Helsinki and the Environmental Division in Turku.
In addition to taking concrete
action to protect the waters, the two cities undertook to invest in
international environmental cooperation, research on water pollution control,
and increasing general awareness of the Baltic Sea. In addition to taking
action themselves, the two cities also invited other actors to join the initiative.
Between 2007 and 2013, approximately 200 organisations from Finland and other
Baltic Sea states took up the Baltic Sea Challenge. This included
municipalities, companies, associations, educational institutions, regional
actors, and state institutions. Almost half of these partners are associations
that include interest groups, hobby associations, Rotary Clubs, and
environmental associations, and approximately one third is made up of cities
and municipalities. Cooperation partners also include dozens of small and
medium-sized enterprises, large companies, and educational institutions, from
universities to elementary schools.
As a form of activity, the Baltic
Sea Challenge is unique. Its core is formed by concrete actions to protect the
waters, taken at a local level and in the organisations’ own operations. These
measures exceed the minimum legal requirements. A great number of those that
have taken up the challenge also have their own Baltic Sea Action Plans. The
Cities of Helsinki and Turku offer those partners who are part of the Baltic
Sea Challenge network the opportunity to share best practices, learn about new
operating models, and build bridges between different operating cultures.
The Baltic Sea Action Plan set out
by the Cities of Helsinki and Turku has now been underway for seven years and,
for the most part, it has been a major success. The Action Plan has supported
the cities’ harbours, waterworks, rescue services, sports, building, urban
planning, and education divisions, as well as international operations, in
paying attention to the impact their actions have on waters. It has also
increased awareness of the state of the Baltic Sea and the opportunities for
influencing this matter amongst their own employees, interest groups and
The Baltic Sea Challenge is not completed. Both the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM) and the European Union have had a hand in changing the national and international operating environment over the years, and more action is needed. By renewing their joint Action Plan, the Cities of Helsinki and Turku undertake to continue their work for the coastal waters and the entire Baltic Sea in 2014–2018. At the same time, they invite new actors to join the cooperation, and current partners to renew their Action Plans.
Helsinki and Turku, November 2013
Mayor Jussi Pajunen Mayor Aleksi Randell