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Some paragraphs from President Halonen’s speech at the Saint-Petersburg State University on 21 November 2017: What should we do for concrete results in sustainable development?

All coastal countries of the Baltic Sea and the EU have agreed to work towards a healthy Baltic Sea environment. We need to restore a good ecological status of the marine environment by the year 2021. There is a long tradition of good cooperation by neighbours along the coasts of the Baltic.

In 2010, Baltic Sea Action Summit process started in Helsinki, in cooperation with the Baltic Sea Action Group. Three years later, a Baltic Sea Forum was organized here, in St. Petersburg. 2013 was a year of the environment in Russia, and also this year, there is the same theme.

These meetings gave their support to continued actions towards a healthy Baltic Sea. The goal was to implement the HELCOM’s Baltic Sea Action Plan from 2007.

Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership is an important connection and tool, to improve the environmental situation in the Gulf of Finland. There have been several success stories. In Russia, many improvements have lately been done in wastewater treatment. For example, the modernization of Petrozavodsk wastewater treatment plan is taken place. In June, the opening of the Kaliningrad wastewater treatment plan was celebrated. More than ten years ago, the South West Wastewater Treatment Plant here in St. Petersburg was put into operation.

Of course, a lot remains to be done in leaving a healthy Baltic Sea to our children and grandchildren. In Finland, we have worked to reduce the agricultural nutrient input to the Baltic Sea. The amount of phosphorus has been reduced, but nutrients still have a notable effect on coastal waters. What we all can do, is to eat less meat.


The 2017 Climate Change Conference (COP 23) just took place in Germany during the last two weeks. There is a two-way relationship between sustainable development and climate change. It is important that strategies take into account both.

One issue that has been brought up in recent discussions is, how to reduce black carbon emissions. This is to slow down the warming in the Arctic region. In addition to global warming, black coal has negative health impacts. Although work with protecting the Baltic Sea and decreasing nutrients to it has to continue, it is also very important to consider climate change aspects here in the north. Temperatures in the arctic are rising more than twice as rapidly as global average temperatures. New technologies can reduce emissions. One important issue would be to strictly limit the flaring of the surplus gas in the oil industry.