Climate change may not seem urgent to many in the Baltic Sea Region, but in the coming decades, its impacts will be felt even here – directly, in terms of changing weather patterns, and indirectly, as impacts elsewhere in the world reverberate in the region.
The Baltic Sea Region nations also have significant commitments in the global effort to slow climate change, which requires shifting away from fossil fuels and making more efficient use of resources. Together, these factors pose significant challenges to both the public and private sectors.
Launched in 2008, with 23 partners from across the region, the BalticClimate project aims to provide decision-makers and other stakeholders with the knowledge they need to grapple effectively with climate change.
As part of the project, SEI’s Tallinn Centre led the development of an online toolkit to support climate change mitigation and adaptation at the local level. The toolkit, available at www.toolkit.balticclimate.org, offers materials in the 11 Baltic Sea Region languages and English, with targeted modules for policymakers, spatial planners, and small and medium-sized businesses.
A focus on local and regional needs
The toolkit grew out of the recognition that while national and international policies are important to guide responses to climate change, a great deal of the implementation occurs at the local and regional levels – and involvement of stakeholders at those levels is vital.
Yet although awareness of climate change challenges is growing, local and regional level authorities often lack the support, resources and experience they need to cope with those challenges. The same is true, even to a greater extent, within the private sector. The toolkit is a first step to fill that gap.
“Studying a broad range of information related to why and how the climate is changing and how to respond to it through mitigation and adaptation strategies can be overwhelming,” says Sebastian Ebert, research fellow at the Academy for Spatial Research and Planning (ARL), in Germany, lead partner in the project. “This is why we wanted to structure the climate change information in a useful and easy to apply knowledge base which acts like a pathfinder leading stakeholders through a process.”
Identifying challenges and opportunities
The BalticClimate toolkit provides explanations of regional climate change scenarios for select areas within the Baltic Sea Region, as well as the region as a whole. It also provides guidance for assessing vulnerability, and it includes examples of applications of the tools throughout the Baltic region, along with video clips and case studies illustrating “win-win” scenarios in the transportation, housing, energy and agriculture sectors.
“There are two things that I think make this toolkit different from previously available resources,” says Piret Kuldna, the project manager at SEI-Tallinn. “First, it focuses not only on potential threats stemming from climate change, but also on identifying potential opportunities for development. Second, it focuses on both the public and private sectors, recognising that both have an important role to play in the region’s response to climate change.”
The BalticClimate project was selected in 2010 as a flagship project contributing to implementation of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region. The managing partners, along with SEI-Tallinn and ARL, are Environmental Projects Ltd., of Latvia; the Centre for Climate Science and Policy Research, of Sweden; and the Regional Council of Central Finland.
This project was part-funded by the European Union’s Baltic Sea Region Programme 2007-2013. SEI participation was also funded by the Estonian Environmental Investment Centre.