Engaging cities and municipalities to clean up the Baltic Sea

Engaging cities and municipalities to clean up the Baltic Sea

BONUS RETURN participated in a ceremony to celebrate the accomplishments of the first batch of cities in The Baltic Sea City Accelerator, a programme initiated by Race For The Baltic, one of BONUS RETURN’s boundary partners.

The Baltic Sea City Accelerator programme is designed to help municipalities and cities gain new insights, explore opportunities to form new partnerships, and identify smart, innovative and cost-effective solutions for local water challenges.

SLUPSK, one of BONUS RETURN’s city partners in Poland, was recognised for successfully completing the inaugural edition of the programme. Mayors and officials representing cities and municipalities from Sweden, Finland, Lithuania and Poland shared their visions, strategies, initiatives and commitments to their respective cities.

From left: Barbara Jackson (CEO, Race for the Baltic); Beata Maciejewska (Head of the Mayor’s Office and Comissioner for Sustainable Development in Slupsk); Niklas Zennström (Skype co-founder and CEO & Founding Partner at Atomico). 

Results from the Accelerator Programme indicate that economic and institutional structures, finance, political will and leadership are some of the challenges hindering the progress of improving the state of the Baltic Sea. For change to be realised, civil servants, politicians and businesses need to be more involved and willing to work together.

Methods for separating nutrients and biogas are needed to facilitate reuse, as well as the need for more collaboration between energy sectors, water authorities, tourism, universities and food producers. It is here where BONUS RETURN aims to contribute to the Accelerator Programme by enriching the Programme with a scientific evidence base that will serve as a point of departure for testing and commercializing eco-technologies for reuse.

“I’m impressed by the cities’ high ambition levels and their innovative plans to help clean up the Baltic Sea. Cities are the change agents that can make a real difference to restore the Baltic Sea and reach the Sustainable Development Goal Targets. We have a positive momentum right now, but there is still more that needs to be done.” – Niklas Zennström, Skype co-founder and CEO, and founder of Race for the Baltic.

Some of the benefits highlighted by the participants in the programme include:

  • Improved learning on how to approach local water issues and problems in the Baltic Sea.
  • Facilitate key players in business and innovations.
  • Reach out to citizens and increase awareness of the environmental problems in the Baltic Sea.
  • Execute effective local action plans.
  • Build networks with water partners.
  • Work jointly across borders at a regional level.

The cooperation between the Accelerator Programme and BONUS RETURN is based upon the shared vision to foster collaboration across municipalities and facilitate the formation of strategic partnerships from the public, private and academic sectors to find solutions to the most acute problems in the Baltic Sea Region.

Lessons learned through the Accelerator Programme will be transferred to BONUS RETURN, and BONUS RETURN will in turn contribute to the second phase of the Accelerator Programme by facilitating the link with new municipalities, scaling up and transferring learning experiences.

Scaling up successful projects can be challenging as some municipalities lack proper fundraising skills and knowledge or experience in the business sector. The match between available funding and identified problems needs to be facilitated as there is increased competition for public funding.