UN climate talks in Madrid were a disappointment. COP25 concluded yesterday with an agreement among countries to take on more ambitious goals. That agreement is not strong. It failed to resolve the main issues on the table, like creating rules for trading carbon emissions credits. Regardless of the political failure, a lot of action is taking place in the non-binding sector and the activities around soil carbon are a positive example.

During the COP25 meeting, a very ambitious and encouraging ’’4/1000 Day’’ was organized.  The aim of the 4/1000 initiative is to demonstrate that agriculture, and in particular agricultural soils, can play a crucial role in both climate change and climate adaptation. The over 30 presentations around the world brought forth a lot of promising practical action and co-operation.

Background

At the Paris Climate Summit 2015, France presented a 4/1000 initiative. An annual growth rate of 0.4% in the soil carbon stocks, or 4‰ per year, in the first 30-40 cm of soil, would significantly reduce the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere related to human activities (https://www.4p1000.org/. The initiative signed by Finland, and promoted by the Finnish Government Programme, is ambitious. BSAG is also a member of the 4/1000 Consortium.   On the occasion of the COP 25 in Madrid, on the 11th of December 2019, the 4/1000 Initiative organized its third ’4/1000 Day’.

Finnish contribution

From the very beginning, 4/1000 has been an inspiration for the Carbon Action work. It was thus a great honour to have the possibility to give a speech at the VIP section of the 4/1000 day about how Finland and Carbon Action are promoting 4/1000. The agenda of the day was: ’’How to move from pilot project to large scale change’’. This suited Carbon Action work perfectly. Carbon Action started as a pilot, funded by Sitra (2017-2019), and has now grown into a platform.

During the Day, State Secretary Kimmo Tiilikainen first told how Finland is committed to enhancing natural sinks, how 4/1000 is supported by the government programme and during Finland’s EU presidency, and that Carbon Action is important in advancing the work in Finland.

In my speech I stressed the importance of the holistic approach of the platform. The Carbon Action platform brings together farmers, advisors, researchers, companies and decision-makers. The platform contains several funders and projects and enables close cooperation among the projects. I emphasized that we need to act, do lot of things at the same time, including experimenting on the farms. To move to large scale, we need all these different actors to work together towards the common goal. The chair of the day, Wolfgang Zornbach, from the German Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection, concluded that the Carbon Action platform could be a template for many other countries in the world.

Take home messages from the 4/1000 Day

The Day was opened by two Agriculture ministers, from Spain and France. They stressed the importance of the 4/1000 initiative. Agricultural soil holds an enormous potential to mitigate climate change by storing carbon, and also provides many other ecosystem services. Spanish Minister Luis Planas concluded well: the 4/1000 initiative is now more relevant than ever.

Chad Frischam from DrawDown gave a very inspirational speech about a regenerative future. We should replace, reduce and restore. He reminded us that regenerative agriculture is nothing new. Industrial agriculture has destroyed the land, and now we need to regenerate it. Regenerative practices bring carbon back to ground, creating win-win-win-win- (I didn’t count how many wins he mentioned..) solutions. Very little negative effects. He concluded that we need to think beyond sustainability, build a regenerative future that is connected to nature.

Jean-Francois Soussana from INRA presented highlights from the IPCC special report on land. He presented different land management responses and their global impacts on land-based challenges (co-benefits and trade-offs). For increased soil organic carbon content, only positive impacts (co-benefits) were found in the IPCC report.

Impressive work of the CIRCASA project was presented by Cristina Arias-Navarro. She presented us the preliminary vision of the CIRCASA International Research Consortium (IRC). This IRC will provide a great possibility for co-operation also with Carbon Action, especially on the international soil carbon monitoring system. an interesting new report by CIRCASA provides thorough insight into the topic: ’’Assessing barriers and solutions to the implementation of SOC sequestration options’’

Cornelia Rumpel, the chair of the scientific and technical committee of the initiative, emphasized the strong role of science behind the initiative. She told that there is a general consensus that increasing soil C is valuable due to the co-benefits and contribution to climate change mitigation. According to recent studies, the technical potential for agricultural soils is limited to about 1,3 Gt OC y-1. She reminded that 4/1000 is an aspirational goal, not a normative one. It is achievable locally, but not everywhere. There are many possibilities for improving nutrient and organic residue management at farm, region and national scales.

Frederic Lambert from the French Ministry of the Agriculture and Food told us about the ambitious work done in France. He estimated that in 2019, 10% of farmers in France are implementing agroecological practices. There also has been major changes in farmers’ education system and research. He emphasized that the major issue is the strengthening of the CAP in order to respond to climate change challenges. He told us about lessons learnt: communicate widely and build on pioneer farmer’s experience. Ensure continuous political support. Make sure that markets can reward agroecological products. Take care of transition costs. Work with farmer organizations and the private sector.

Dalma Somogyi ’climate smart agriculture’ WBCSD told us about the role of companies in changing value chains. She said that there is a clear business case for investing in soil health. Whilst an investment may be primarily focused on one outcome (e.g. for enhancing crop productivity or livelihoods, climate mitigation, improving water resources, or protecting biodiversity), an investment in soils for any one of these outcomes will deliver multiple benefits (see more on the report). She also told us about the One Planet Business for Biodiversity (OP2B), a business coalition on biodiversity with a specific focus on agriculture. One pillar of OP2B is focused on regenerative agriculture: to scale up regenerative agricultural practices and to reduce synthetic agro-chemical inputs to protect soil health. Very important messages for the Carbon Action business platform also.

Conclusion

There is still a long way to go for the Initiative. Further research and practical experience on regenerative agriculture is required to turn the initiative into action. But the 4/1000 initiative, and also Carbon Action are on the right track.

Move, evolve, experiment and increase farmers’ awareness on the necessity of changing production methods towards preserving soil capital and its health. It is the society as a whole that must drive and support these changes, from politicians or decision-makers, to the civil society and NGOs, to advisors and farmers, to the scientific world of research and education, to companies, and to international organisations and donors. One of the major roles of the 4/1000 Initiative is to strengthen this path and create the necessary synergies between different projects and platforms.

Laura Höijer, content director, Baltic Sea Action Group

 

See more:

https://4per1000day2019.sciencesconf.org/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MH4xDUryzLY (you can watch all the presentations)

 


On 19 November, the Carbon Action business platform gathered at Valio’s premises in Pitäjänmäki. The platform includes Altia, Apetit, Fazer, SOK and Valio. Speakers at the event were Juha Nousiainen, Director of Valio’s Carbon Neutral Dairy Chain, Kimmo Tiilikainen, State Secretary of the Center Ministerial Group, Jari Liski, Research Professor at the Finnish Meteorological Institute, Laura Höijer, BSAG’s Content Director and BSAG’s CEO Michaela Ramm-Schmidt.

Valio’s presentation focused on measures to achieve a carbon-neutral dairy chain. The chain needs to be built around reducing emissions and removing emissions from the atmosphere, and moving from a fossil economy to a circular economy. Collaboration is an essential part of Valio’s goal, and it requires the help of numerous partners.

Grass feed based dairy production can be a part of agriculture’s climate solutions. When done correctly, it also holds potential to increase carbon storage in the field, based on research carried out in the Carbon Action project.

Other important farm-related measures for reaching the climate target include carbon emissions from organic lands, improving manure utilization, reducing animal-based methane emissions, more efficient land use, using renewable energy and investing in barn technologies. Although measures to achieve carbon neutrality are well known, accurate measurement is difficult.

Kimmo Tiilikainen talked about the government’s climate targets and paths to achieve them. Tiilikainen emphasized the importance of long-term comprehensive work in reducing emissions. According to him, instant wins do not exist. Heavy industry plays an important role in the national energy usage. Another area that needs to be significantly improved in terms of emission reduction is transport and, for example, biogas can be a good alternative for heavy transportation. Each industry needs to think about the relevant climate solutions in their field, Valio’s Juha Nousiainen reminded.

Kimmo Tiilikainen talked about the government’s climate targets at the Carbon Action company platform.

When it comes to carbon sequestration, the debate often shifts to the land-use sector and its three pillars of climate action: agricultural land management, sustainable forest production, and land use and wetland activities. These are all relevant to Finland’s objectives. Deforestation is a problem in Finland. In agriculture, solutions must be sought either through farm arrangements or by improving manure processing to reduce clearance pressure. Balancing the emissions with the carbon sinks is essential. There is uncertainty in the development of the sinks, which makes it difficult to anticipate the effects of the measures.

Jari Liski told that the carbon capture verification system development is proceeding rapidly. The first version is expected to be released in the second half of 2020. Liski emphasizes that the development of computational models must be continuous as research data is updated. At theoretical level, the calculation model developed in the context of Carbon Action is globally scalable and in line with the guidelines of the International Climate Panel (IPCC).

Jari Liski, Research Professor at the Finnish Meteorological Institute, talked about the carbon capture verification system.

Although there is a great need for new and validated research, the results of recent years have shown that measures could already be developed. These measures are being tested, for example, by Carbon Action farmers.

BSAG’s speeches focused on the development of the Carbon Action platform and the activities of the company platform. The platform has been expanded with major projects such as the STN MULTA project funded by the Strategic Research Council and the MAANEUVO project funded by the Support association for soil and water technologies. Interest in the Carbon Action platform has been growing both domestically and internationally. The activities of the company platform have been praised by the participants. In the future, the group has been particularly asked to clarify the roles of companies, support CSR work and popularize research information.


The EU Common Agricultural Policy is one of the strongest drivers of land use in Europe. It is now being drawn for the next seven-year period (2021-2027) – drafting work taking place both on the EU and national levels.  The CAP, and how its budget of over 300 billion euros is distributed, will have a significant impact on our attempts to mitigate climate change as well as on the health of the Baltic Sea. The EU CAP budget will be cut by around 10% from the previous period and this will be felt by individual farmers, but it will also affect the allocation of budget between direct support, per hectare payments, possible conditional incentives and the rural development support.

The CAP, now 57 years old, has undergone more or less comprehensive revisions, health checks and greening attempts before each new financing period since 1992. The greening of hectare support in the previous period was not a successful improvement neither from the perspective of the environment nor that of the farmer. Now, the EU Commission has proposed that the CAP 2021-2027 framework would make part of the hectare support voluntary for farmers under so-called eco-schemes, which would mean a significant change in the basis and allocation of a big portion of the budget. A major overall change in the new CAP is the added nationalization in the content and implementation of the policy, based on the national CAP Strategic Plans incorporating the whole policy framework and funding across the former pillars 1 and 2. The Commission also proposes that minimum 30% of the rural development budget is allocated to climate and environmental measures. On the aggregated EU level, this would mean a notable, nearly 10% point increase from the previous period, which of course has to be mirrored against the reduced absolute budget. Looking at the Baltic Sea riparian countries (or federal states in the case of Germany), no country exceeded 25% allocation in agri-enviroment-climate measures in the previous budgets.

So what is the stake for the Baltic Sea in this? What should be taken into account? How would the Baltic Sea draw up the CAP plans? Arable land covers 22% of the Baltic Sea’s drainage area and most of this is south of the Gulf of Finland. The most important agricultural regions in the EU part of the Baltic Sea catchment, are Denmark, the county of Scania in the southern tip of Sweden, North East Germany, Poland and Lithuania. Out of these, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and the two federal states of Germany had the smallest RDP allocations (5-13%) to agri-environment-climate measures among all Baltic Sea countries.

Reflecting on this history, and the many and repeated assessments of the CAP not being effective and targeted enough in terms of the environmental objectives, the Commission proposal discussed above can be seen as a solution to expand the coverage of environment and climate measures, raise the ambition level and increase their effect. By tightening and further specifying the prescriptions of conditionality (SMR, GAEC), offering financial incentives through the eco-schemes, it’s understood we can steer agriculture as a whole to adopt more sustainable farming and soil management practises through mechanisms connected with hectare support. This is also the view of the EU Parliament’s agricultural committee which recently approved the position that the eco-schemes should be operationalized with a minimum budget allocation of 20% of the direct payments. This kind of a policy, raising the standards of sustainable agriculture overall,  is more likely to lead to a more favourable development also from the perspective of the Baltic Sea.

This view is, however, not shared by Finland and Sweden, the two countries having the most at stake regarding the environmental state of Baltic Sea. These countries have traditionally favoured the voluntary path in terms of additional environmental measures in the CAP and this position appears to prevail. Raising the environmental ambition of conditionality and offering incentives or result-based compensation through the eco-schemes is not enjoying support from these two countries, a scenario which means that most of the support would be handed out to all farms complying with the basic elementary standards. This scenario eats into the spirit and the motivation of the farmers having already adopted more sustainable practises and in the worst case could worsen the environmental performance of European and Baltic Sea region agriculture overall.

Our global challenges and their local phenomena, like decline in biodiversity, extreme weather and eutrophication of water bodies, are reaching such scales and magnitudes, that we must see things in a longer time horizon and make fundamental changes in our economic systems and the policies steering our society. The EU Common Agriculture Policy must take a step onto the path where we gradually phase out subsidies which contribute to soil degradation and biodiversity decline and steer public budgets increasingly into sustainable land and soil management practises.  It is critical to support and incentivize the adoption of such practises widely across the whole sector, calling for their horizontal adoption across the CAP.

We need more holistic, integrated and systematic approach in the design of the policies which aims for a living soil which sequesters carbon, withholds water and nutrients and gives better yields. This gives a basis for both plant and animal production and resource efficient circular agriculture. Agriculture which also allows the Baltic Sea to recover and restore its diverse underwater life.


The Baltic Sea Action Group strenghtened its roster in agricultural expertise as Eliisa Malin begun her work in the foundation at the beginning of September. Malin was already familiar with BSAG through Carbon Action, since Malin’s farm is one of Carbon Action’s one hundred pilot farms.

– My husband heard about Carbon Action through work. We got interested immediately. It was amazing to become part of a group of farmers who are not afraid of new ideas, and are supportive of each other in our shared, goal-oriented soil carbon sequestration endeavours. I’m really happy that we were accepted as one of the one hundred pilot farms.

Carbon Action’s pilot farms are divided into small groups that test different carbon farming methods. Malins’ farm is in the All in group that tests every possible carbon farming method. So far the work for carbon sequestration has gone rather smoothly but minimizing tillage has posed some challenges.

– Minimizing tillage has been the most difficult task for us. We need to consider carefully how to proceed with this method in our organic farm. It will require updating our equipment somewhat, as well as reorganizing our work. We have grown cover crops for years and they have worked really well. We would like to develop that method further.

The most recent addition to the BSAG crew, carbon farmer Eliisa Malin.

BSAG’s approach to advancing sustainable agriculture has always been pragmatic. Through Malin, the foundation has gained even more practical agricultural know-how. Malin describes her path to BSAG as “a year-long job interview”, as she got to know Eija Hagelberg and Sanna Söderlund from BSAG through Carbon Action.

– I realized how important it would be to get to work with carbon sequestration as I attended the Carbon Action events. I am a trained agronomist, more specifically a plant pathologist, and I longed for work in my own field in addition to working on our farm. I said this aloud on one of our field days and what do you know, I started my work in BSAG at the beginning of September!

Malin’s work in BSAG consists of many different tasks, such as Carbon Action related communications, event planning, trainings, creating materials and business cooperation. Malin’s main job however is to deliver scientific research to farmers and agricultural advisors. She works in the SOILADVICE project, composing guidebooks and texts to bring the important basic research and the latest research data to the use of farmers.

– My job is extremely multidimensional, which seems to be the case for everyone working in BSAG. The work is exciting and fast-paced. Every Monday brings a new adventure in the wonderland of sustainable agriculture!


The Finnish dairy company Valio aims to achieve a carbon neutral dairy chain by the year 2035. To reach the ambitious goal, extensive collaboration with dairy producers is needed. In the fall of 2019 Valio and Baltic Sea Action Group organized two trainings for Valio’s producers with the heading ”Dairy farms to carbon farms”. The trainings were held in Aulanko on the 29th and 30th of October, and in Tahko on the 6th and 7th of November. Nearly 200 dairy producers participated in the trainings.

Valio’s director of the carbon neutral dairy chain Juha Nousiainen noted how cattle has been prominently featured in discussions about climate change, and usually in a negative light. The dairy chain wants to prove that they are aware of their production’s effect on climate, and that Valio wants to make a positive impact. Valio’s carbon neutral dairy chain takes into consideration e.g. emission-reducing technologies, energy production, logistics, packaging and losses in addition to developing the dairy farms. The perennial grasses used in dairy farming are also a good way to cover organic peatlands and prevent them from releasing carbon.

The trainings approached the subject from a futuristic point of view. BSAG’s head of training Sanna Söderlund prompted the audience to ponder the change and possibilities ahead. Dairy farms have a great potential in carbon sequestration and the future is yet to be written. We have a unique opportunity to develop production towards one that benefits the environment and sequesters carbon. This calls for openness and courage to take on new challenges and develop the existing solutions further.

The trainings began with presentations on the basics of carbon farming by Carbon Action’s experts Eliisa Malin (Aulanko) and Juuso Joona (Tahko), as well as speeches from the dairy producers themselves who spoke about their motivation to become carbon farmers. The producers got to share their thoughts further in small groups, and the discussion was lively. The future of agricultural aid, possible marketplaces for sequestered carbon, alternatives to tilling and how to reduce the use of plant protection products were among the subjects discussed in the groups. Researchers from the Carbon Action platform also gave presentations on the measuring and verification of carbon sequestration.

As the participants were all dairy farmers, it wasn’t surprising that discussion on grass took the centre stage in the trainings. Numerous specialists shared their expertise in so called grass modules. Grass is the most important feed in a dairy farm and the productivity of the farm often depends on it. In addition to pastures, perennial and multi-species grasses are the cornerstone of carbon farming.

Philosophy behind carbon farming was discussed in a panel with Olli-Pekka Ruponen (left), Jari Eerola, Jussi Knaapi, Johanna Vakkamäki, Juha Nousiainen and Sanna Söderlund.

The next day began with a panel discussion on the philosophy behind carbon farming, led by Sanna Söderlund. Agriculture plays a huge part in climate change, and plants are the most crucial part of the solution. Attitudes towards agriculture have started to change in the last couple of years, as fields are seen as a solution instead of a problem. This has made a more open discussion possible, and the younger generations have a lot of potential and understanding. Doing climate smart work in the fields also increases the productivity of both dairy production and all farming. However, reaching the goal will take time and effort.

Agronomist Jussi Knaapi addressed the importance of verifying the amount of carbon stored in the soil. At the moment there isn’t much data from the deeper layers of soil and more resources should be directed towards this work. Currently soil samples from deeper layers, as well as verification methods are researched in the Carbon Action platform and the stn MULTA project. Knaapi states that measurements and scannings from the fields are, together with other research, an important tool if we want to trade with carbon in the future. He also highlighted the need for holistic management in the farms.

Experts and researchers also gave presentations on protein rich fodder crops, as well as mitigating the carbon emissions from peatlands. The next training will be in the form of a webinar focusing on creating a carbon farming plan for each individual farm.


Circular Economy in Agriculture -seminar
Finlandia Hall, Helsinki, Finland 30/9/2019

Set objectives high and coordinate joint actions to reach them

The above summarizes the conclusions of the panel discussion on the sustainable use of livestock manure during the Finnish EU Presidency Circular Economy warm-up event in Helsinki, Finland.

SuMaNu Interreg platform project and Baltic Sea Action Group (BSAG) arranged a seminar titled “Circular Economy in Agriculture – How to Advance Nutrient Circulation, Soil Quality and a Healthy Environment.” at Finlandia Hall on the 30 September 2019. The event was part of the Finnish EU Presidency event European Days for Sustainable Circular Economy (#edsce19). Approximately 40 people, from small producers to politicians, took part and enjoyed a fruitful panel discussion, in which sharing their views were MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen, Professor Jean-Franҫois Soussana from the French National Agricultural Research Institute INRA, Director Juha Nousiainen from the Finnish dairy company Valio, Senior Ministerial Adviser Saara Bäck from the Finnish Ministry of the Environment and Senior scientist Sari Luostarinen from Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke). The panel discussion was moderated by Researcher Erik Sindhöj from RISE, Sweden.

The panel discussion filled the seminar room at Finlandia Hall.

The introductory presentations came from research and administration. The opening address was given by Minna Sarvi, Research Scientist at Luke and the coordinator of the SuMaNu platform project. She referred to HELCOM statistics and noted that in land-based phosphorus load to the Baltic Sea, distinct regional peaks stand out. As a result of emission reductions from waste water treatment plants and industry, the diffuse load from agriculture, and in particular the contribution of certain regions with accumulated phosphorus, is accentuated. In these areas, accumulation of phosphorus in animal manure exceeds the needs of the region’s crop production. Regional concentration reflects the nature of the challenge, being connected to the structure of the agricultural sector and its value chains.

The case presented about Finland exemplifies this. According to Luke, 26 000 tonnes of potentially recyclable phosphorus is produced each year, of which 19 300 tonnes in livestock manure (figures by Luke from 2017). At the same time, 11 000 tonnes of mineral phosphorus are used in Finnish agriculture annually. To make manure phosphorus a more viable alternative to replace mineral phosphorus as a fertilizer, the excess manure should be processed so that it can be more easily transported to areas where it is needed.

The aim of the SuMaNu platform project is to pool information and produce recommendations on how to improve the efficiency of manure utilization both at farm and regional levels, so that manure nutrients can be used more efficiently and safely in crop production.

The coordinator of the SuMaNu platform, Research scientist Minna Sarvi from Luke opened the event with a framing of the issue and a case example from Finland.

The intergovernmental environmental policy body of the Baltic Sea countries, HELCOM, has accelerated efforts to solve the challenges of nutrient run-off and nutrient recycling through a joint regional nutrient recycling strategy. In her introductory remarks, Saara Bäck, Senior Ministerial Adviser and the current Chairman of HELCOM, remided that 98% of the Baltic Sea still suffers from eutrophication. In Finland, the work to promote nutrient recycling started already in 2010, when Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen set the goal of making Finland a model country for nutrient recycling by 2020. To achieve this goal, several funding programs have been implemented, such as the Finnish government key project on nutrient recycling launched in 2016.

For the basis of the HELCOM regional nutrient recycling strategy, work to establish guidelines for standards to determine the nutrient content of manure is ongoing. The standards are currently being developed by Manure Standards, a joint project of the Baltic Sea countries, which is also involved in SuMaNu. Another example of national initiatives is the national phosphorus strategy in Germany.

The objectives of HELCOM’s regional nutrient recycling strategy were jointly agreed between the countries last summer. They set focus on sustainability and safety, reducing the environmental load and creating new business opportunities. The objectives of the strategy will be implemented through the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan and nationally through relevant policies. Once completed, this would present the Baltic Sea region as a model area for nutrient recycling.

In her presentation, Senior Researcher Sari Luostarinen of Luke, a specialist in manure management and processing, summed up the key policy issues for the panel to tackle. As the regional segregation of crop and livestock production results in phosphorus surpluses in some areas and in deficit in others, it is necessary to look for solutions beyond the farm scale to achieve a more even use of manure nutrients, meaning also less nutrient runoff to the waters. Since transportation of raw manure is expensive and inefficient, part of the manure produced should be processed into more advanced recycled fertilizer products. This would mean, in particular, the separation of nitrogen and phosphorus into different fractions and the concentration of the nutrients into smaller volumes using different technologies. The organic matter in the manure is important for maintaining soil fertility and often the manure phosphorus ends up in the same processed product with the organic matter.

In terms of policy steering, the promotion of manure processing requires the development and quality assurance of the manure-based fertilizer products, as well as financial support and incentives to promote the emergence of larger processing plants as ‘regional nutrient recycling centres’. It is essential to target policies specifically to address regional imbalances in nutrients and to encourage the farmers to use recycled nutrients instead of mineral fertilizers.

The main part of the event, the panel discussion, provided an excellent, constructive and positive discussion on managing agri-environmental issues from multiple angles. Jean-Franҫois Soussana, a merited climate scientist and contributor to the 4-per-mille initiative by France at the 2015 Climate Summit, stressed that soil carbon plays a key role in the behaviour of nitrogen and phosphorus. The optimum carbon-nitrogen-phosphorus ratio ensures that the phosphorus remains in the soil and is not subject to leaching. Soil carbon and soil carbon storage play an important role in mitigating climate change and therefore the issue of nutrient recycling, manure use and water protection should be considered in conjunction with soil carbon and climate issues. From the climate perspective, also the entire food system should be addressed, which, depending on how it is calculated, accounts for more than a third of all greenhouse gas emissions, as Professor Soussana pointed out. In this case, one should critically consider e.g. the use of fossil energy, diet and eating habits; land use, and, above all, the promotion of nature-based, multi-benefit solutions such as restoring soil microbiology and farming methods which circulate organic material. This is not only about combating climate change, but also preparing for and increasing resistance to climate change and extreme weather events.

In recent years, we have seen many examples of how companies have taken initiatives to transform their operations more climate friendly, realizing that it may be also commercially smart to be among the early adaptors. A good example of this kind of thinking and goal setting is Valio Ltd, represented in the panel by Juha Nousiainen, Director of the Carbon Neutral Milk Chain. When he was recently commented that pursuing carbon-neutral milk production by 2035 is “absolutely crazy”, Nousiainen replied:”Is it really crazy enough?”. He firmly believes that targets need to be set beyond what is currently seen technically feasible. According to Nousiainen, Valio’s target will be achieved through the means currently being explored and disseminated more widely: soil management, storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide via grasslands, on-farm and regional manure processing solutions, reduction of mineral fertilization, and the abandonment of fossil fuels.

The panel also considered the health risks associated with the use of recycled fertilizers in food production, such as cadmium and other harmful metals, as well as antibiotics and antibiotic resistant microbes. The new EU fertilizer product regulation also covers product safety issues, but there are many unknowns, so research and monitoring to minimize these risks need to be continued.

Once the targets are set and the private and public goals aligned, well-targeted smart regulation is needed to steer multiple actors simultaneously towards the target. In the debate, MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen called for a shift away from sectoral thinking and emphasized systemic change, which can also be achieved through targeted incentives. In particular, agriculture should be linked to a broader food system. Why not start to draw a road map for a sustainable food system in Europe?

This discussion, too, showed that we can, in any case, increase communication and debate between different sectors. As Saara Bäck emphasized, open information sharing and confidence-building discussion open up opportunities for mutually beneficial solutions.

 

Background: The structure of agriculture feeds phosphorus hot spots

The regional segregation of animal and crop production is a problem both in Finland and in Europe in general. In Central and Western Europe, the issue was first raised because of groundwater pollution caused by nitrate emissions, but the Baltic Sea region and Finland are equally concerned with phosphorus. This approach is increasingly being adopted around Europe.

In general, livestock manure contains too much phosphorus relative to nitrogen and crop needs. Phosphorus is a non-renewable resource whose production raises worrying ecological, socio-economic and geopolitical issues. Together with nitrogen, it accelerates eutrophication when entering waterways. But in the soil, phosphorus is a vital nutrient for crops. The correct chemical balance between nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon promotes nutrient entry into crop growth and prevents leaching to waterways.

This equilibrium has been disturbed in many places: in Finland, the problem is the regional segregation of livestock production and the history of high phosphorus fertilization increasing the soil phosphorus stock occurring on the same regions. Manure phosphorus is available on areas with little need for phosphorus fertilization. In France, the problem is exacerbated by the import of soya, which leads to the concentration of livestock production in coastal areas close to ports. This makes sustainable uses of nutrients more challenging. For well-functioning, living soils, and to combat climate change, we should find ways to simultaneously recycle nutrients and add carbon to the soil and keep it there. Optimal use of manure is also part of this solution.

 


Saara Kankaanrinta, co-founder and  the chair of the Baltic Sea Action group, has been awarded personal Medal of Honour at the Globe Energy Conference yesterday for her comprehensive work for climate, soil, biodiversity and the Baltic Sea. Her award was given for her visionary and consistent work for the environmental at the BSAG Foundation, Carbon Action platform and several companies

The Globe Energy Award is one of the most esteemed sustainability awards and this year the conference and gala take place in Espoo, Finland.  The other 2019 Medal of Honor award-winners were Maneka Gandhi, Member of Parliament of India and former Minister for Environment of India, chair of the Climate Leadership Coalition Henrik Ehrnrooth, President of Global Chamber Platform and EuroChambers Christoph Leitl and the vice president of the Club of Rome Anders Wijkman.

Ms. Kankaanrinta is leading environmental figure and a fire soul engaged to the wellbeing of nature. Kankaanrinta is a chair and has founded, together with good partners, award-winning Baltic Sea Action Group foundation and Carbon Action Platfrom, Q Power Ltd and Soilfood Ltd.

“She has an exceptional ability of digesting knowledge from various fields and forming holistic yet targeted actions – and to mobilize people, ideas and resources within science, NGO, business and politics. She has succeeded in mobilizing people, ideas and resources, and working together at various levels of society, from citizen organizations to business and politics.”   was stated in the justifications for the award.


The city of Helsinki, the city of St. Petersburg, Baltic Sea Action Group, RMEY ry, East Office and The Baltic Sea Challenge organized a joint discussion forum on the 1st of November in Helsinki’s Old Town Hall. The forum brought together Finnish and Russian high-level decision makers to discuss the state of the Baltic Sea.

The moderator, member of parliament Harry Harkimo reminded the listeners that it often takes a while for environmental degradation to become obvious. The Baltic Sea’s catchment area consists of 14 countries, and the sea has received massive amounts of human-induced loading for a long time. This is also why saving the sea requires contribution from everyone.

The Mayor of Helsinki, Jan Vapaavuori, mentioned BSAG and other third sector organizations’ role as the defenders of the Baltic Sea. Vapaavuori called for concrete action, collaboration between different sectors, and far reaching, future-oriented decision making to save the sea.

”Helsinki overlooks one of the most polluted seas in the world – saying this saddens me every time. An ailing sea cannot be the source of well-being. Saving the sea requires developments that surpass our lifetime”, Vapaavuori stated.

Official greetings were delivered by the Chair of Committee of External Relations of the Government of St. Petersburg Evgeny Grigoryev, State secretary Kimmo Tiilikainen, Member of Parliament Jukka Kopra, Vice-chair of the Committee of Regional Policy of North of the State Duma of the Russian Federation Valentina Pivnenko, and Member of the State Duma Vitaly Milonov. All highlighted the importance of collaboration in saving the sea. A lot has already been accomplished for the Baltic Sea but a lot also remains to be done.

Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment Hannele Pokka addressed the decades-long Finnish-Russian collaboration in her speech. She also pointed out the successes in the work done for the Baltic Sea: ”The Baltic Sea may invoke negative impressions in many of us. However, we should also keep in mind the numerous accomplishments.”

The forum consisted of presentations on three main themes, as well as a panel discussion. Esteemed experts gave presentations on soil carbon sequestration, protection of underwater marine biodiversity, and collaboration between cities. The presentations and the panel discussion were moderated by the Chair of the Board of East Office Ltd. Ilkka Salonen.

BSAG’s Saara Kankaanrinta gave a presentation on soil carbon sequestration and its importance in mitigating climate change and protecting the Baltic Sea.

BSAG’s co-founder and Chair of the Board Saara Kankaanrinta gave a presentation on the importance of healthy soil, Carbon Action platform and the stn MULTA project. The Carbon Action platform, initiated by BSAG, fights climate change through sustainable agriculture, in collaboration with farmers, scientists and businesses. The change is needed, as our current food production system is built on an unsustainable foundation. The loss of fertile soil and nature’s biodiversity, erosion, as well as nutrients leaking from fields to waterways are just few of the problems caused by intensive agriculture and monocultures.

”Soil, climate change and the Baltic Sea are intertwined in a way that was not really addressed ten years ago, when BSAG was founded. Climate change affects the Baltic Sea in many ways, such as exacerbating the eutrophication problem. Work against climate change is also work for the Baltic Sea”, Kankaanrinta declared.

Professor Oleg Kharkhordin from the European University of St. Petersburg commented on Kankaanrinta’s presentation. He also acknowledged the role of deep-rooted plants, healthy soil microbiome and reduced tillage in enhancing soil carbon sequestration. As a social scientist Kharkhordin noted that sociological studies provide additional tools to encourage carbon farming. Multidisciplinarity should be encouraged e.g. through research funding.

Second theme in the forum was the protection of underwater marine biodiversity. Professor Markku Viitasalo from Finnish Environment Institute presented the methods and findings of the Finnish Inventory Programme for the Underwater Marine Environment VELMU. VELMU’s unique data enables the targeting of protective measures to cover the underwater areas that are most valuable for ensuring marine biodiversity. The work is helped forward in the Baltic Sea Action for Biodiversity project, initiated by BSAG. Similar inventory measures could be carried out outside Finnish marine areas as well.

”Eutrophication and habitat loss threaten underwater biodiversity. But the Baltic Sea is not dead yet, and there is a lot of life worth protecting under the surface”, Viitasalo reminded.

Vyacheslav Alekseyev from the Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Centre told about practical work to help the Baltic Sea’s seals. The centre has helped starved, injured, or lost sea mammals for 12 years. The animals are rehabilitated and returned back to nature. The centre also does scientific research, as well as raises awareness on seals’ lives. People’s willingness to protect nature increases as they become more informed.

The Baltic Sea’s biodiversity is also threatened by different hazardous substances. The sea is highly trafficked, and numerous wrecks have sunk to the bottom over time, possibly leaking substances such as oil into the sea. Kari Rinne from SET CleanTech Ltd. told the audience about these high-risk wrecks and the work done to empty them. Emptying the wrecks of oil is a big operation but luckily the technologies are evolving continuously.

All speakers in the forum mentioned the power of collaboration, and fittigly the third theme was collaboration between cities. Mari Joensuu from the city of Helsinki and Tove Holm from the city of Turku spoke about the cities’ collaboration for the Baltic Sea, which has gone on for 12 years. The Baltic Sea Challenge highlights action on the local level. Businesses, organizations, schools and cities are all welcome to join. The Baltic Sea Challenge also includes participants from outside Turku and Helsinki.

Ivan Serebritsky from St. Petersburg told the listeners about St. Petersburg’s collaboration with other cities. Cities play a major part in protecting the Baltic Sea, and it’s important to exchange experiences and opinions between cities. This is made possible by e.g. different conferences held in St. Petersburg. In addition, beach cleaning campaingns encourage citizens from around the Baltic Sea to gather trash and other debris from the beaches surrounding the sea.

Anders Blom, Kai Myrberg, Dmitry Troshenko and Ulla Tapaninen participated in the panel discussion at the end of the seminar.

The forum was completed with a panel discussion with Anders Blom from the University of Turku, Kai Myrberg from the Finnish Environment Institute, Ulla Tapaninen from the city of Helsinki, and Dmitry Troshenko from the city of St. Petersburg. The panelists’ statements brought up the importance of political decision-making, education, responsible business, and scientific research.

We share the sea, with its problems stemming from multiple sources and spanning across many decades. Constructive collaboration, as well as harnessing different sectors of society to work for the Baltic Sea are necessary to achieve good ecological balance of the sea.


The Finnish fashion brand TAUKO’s commitment to the Baltic Sea, increases the sustainability of dyeing and the recyclability of textiles.

TAUKO design uses hotel, restaurant and healthcare waste textiles as materials for its products, which itself radically reduces the environmental footprint of the final product. The Baltic Sea Commitment is in particular aimed at reducing the environmental impact of the TAUKO process. Hazardous substances are one of the major problems in the Baltic Sea and have a direct impact on, inter alia, underwater biodiversity.

TAUKO’s three-year commitment consists of three parts.

Textile dyeing: TAUKO commits to investigate the environmental impact of dyeing processes used in the production through public reporting during 2020. The necessary improvements and introduction of replacement processes will be done by the end of 2022.

Textile recyclability: TAUKO is committed to implementing a recycling program for the recycling of textile waste and consumer textiles (used TAUKO clothing) by 2021.

Communication: TAUKO is committed to communicating to consumers about a more sustainable textile industry and its role in marine biodiversity and the state of the Baltic Sea, and how consumers can reduce the environmental burden of the textile industry through their choices.

TAUKO design also donates the profits of the TAUKO x Gullkrona collection, as well as part of the profits from its Christmas campaign, to the Baltic Sea Action Group’s work for the Baltic Sea.

 


As part of the Carbon Action collaboration the Ruralia Institute has started a training project on soil management and carbon farming, aimed at agricultural advisors and mentors.

Extreme weather conditions and mitigating climate change pose new challenges for agriculture. Soils’ capacity to adapt to extreme conditions has declined due to e.g. soil compaction and monocultures. In the future, farming will require even more land management, repairing and taking care of the soil.

In the SOILADVICE project (”Sustainable soil management and carbon farming through extensive use of research findings and advisor practices”) advisors are trained to educate farmers on tending the soil in ways that will make it healthier and improve its capacity to sequester carbon. SOILADVICE also brings research data to the use of advisors and farmers, including findings from the Carbon Action platform and Carbon Action pilot farms. The approach is holistic, practical and based on research.

The training consists of online workshops and field days, designing a soil management plan for a farm, self-studies applying given materials, and online discussions. Know-how is acquired by doing. Participants are trained to observe soil degradation in different farms, and to design measures that promote healthy soil and carbon sequestration, and monitor their effectiveness.

The project trains 30 agricultural advisors and mentors. The trainees work as advisors in ProAgria centers, and as private advisors or mentors around Finland. The training lasts until the end of 2021. The project is funded by Support association for soil and water technologies (Maa- ja vesitekniikan tuki ry).


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