Environmental Encounters or Foreign Policy?
- New Horizons in Environmental Politics series
Chapter 4: The regional case: protecting the environment of the Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is regarded as one of the most polluted sea areas in the world (HELCOM 2007). The Helsinki Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea area, agreed upon in 1974, was the first international agreement to cover an entire sea. With its governing body the Helsinki Commission (HELCOM), the Convention forms an environmental protection regime that includes all the Baltic coastal countries. Even if the impact of the HELCOM regime on the state of the environment has been rather modest as yet (see Artioli et al. 2008), the regime stands as one of the most active cases of regional environmental cooperation, offering lessons for scholars and practitioners of international environmental politics (see e.g. Haas 1993; VanDeveer 2004; Tynkkynen 2011). According to the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) (see HELCOM 2007), the most serious environmental problem in the Baltic Sea is eutrophication: the accumulation of excessive nutrients, mainly phosphorus and nitrogen, in the water, with subsequent accelerated primary production leading to toxic algal blooms (cyanobacteria), oxygen depletion, and biodiversity loss. These effects have a negative influence on recreational activities, tourism and fishery, and even human health. Nutrients originate mainly from anthropogenic sources throughout the drainage basin: (urban) wastewater, industrial and agricultural activities, forestry, and transport.
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