The objective of the NutriTrade project is to expand the selection of means we have at our disposal for protecting the Baltic Sea, and to reduce phosphorus and nitrogen loads with fast and cost-efficient measures. The importance of the project has led to it being nominated as the flagship project of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region.

The story of the NutriTrade project began already in 2008, when NEFCO published an expert report by the GreenStream Network, the Finnish Environment Institute, and the University of Helsinki. The conclusions of the report indicated that current legislation is not a sufficiently powerful steering method for restoring good ecological status to the Baltic Sea. However, large differences in the costs of reducing nutrient discharges amongst the countries surrounding the Baltic Sea mean that international cooperation would make cost-efficient discharge reduction possible, and that nutrient trading could be a suitable mechanism for utilising this potential.

The idea of establishing nutrient trading in the Baltic Sea did not move forward before the John Nurminen Foundation processed the concept into an EU project application, with the Foundation leading the development of voluntary nutrient trading with the University of Helsinki, the Natural Resources Institute of Finland, and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences as project partners. In spring 2015, the project received financing from the EU Interreg Central Baltic programme, and a full-time project manager and financial coordinator were recruited for the project.

The project has initiated three pilot projects that reduce nutrient discharges. The Local Fishing project, which seeks to remove a significant amount of nutrients from the Archipelago Sea by fishing cyprinid fish (read more on the project on pages 32–35), is the furthest along of the pilots. Participants have also been invited to join the Mussel pilot, which reduces nutrients along the coast of Sweden, and the Gypsum pilot, which reduces runoff from agriculture in Lieto.

Alongside the pilots, the project builds a mechanism for promoting various project ideas that reduce nutrient discharges, and provides a meeting forum for the stakeholders who implement the reductions and their voluntary funders, such as companies, municipalities and private individuals. The nutrient trading mechanism is the first of its kind in Europe.

The project will also investigate whether nutrient trading and nutrient discharge compensation can be a steering method for the protection of waters on the national and international levels. Based on this analysis, NutriTrade will create new recommendations for operations in the Baltic Sea area.

In 2015–18, the total budget of the project is €2.1 million, of which EU funding (EU Interreg Central Baltic Programme) accounts for almost €1.6 million. The Foundation finances the project with the total sum of €256,000.

What is voluntary nutrient discharge trading?

The main idea of nutrient discharge trading is to implement reductions in discharges in places where it is most cost-efficient. Various stakeholders can either reduce their own discharges, or obtain nutrient discharge reductions from the market. The market will direct reduction effort to targets that are implemented with low costs, resulting in the total costs of discharge reductions to be lower than without trading. Voluntary nutrient discharge trading brings together the parties who implement nutrient discharge reductions involving either point or non-point loads, and their voluntary financiers.

Nutrient discharge trading can reduce the costs of the reductions we aim for locally, nationally and internationally. By designing trading models that encourage the development of new and innovative nutrient reduction measures we create new opportunities for bringing the Baltic Sea ecosystem back to health.’

– Katarina Elofsson, Associate Professor, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

‘Utilising its expertise, the Natural Resources Institute of Finland seeks to support the development and deployment of smart environmental steering methods. In this project, we are responsible for surveying the financial and institutional ecosystem of the Baltic Sea, which will accommodate these flexible steering mechanisms. We will support the project with our research history and our cooperation networks. When flexible mechanisms are being planned on the Baltic level, it is worthwhile to learn from existing nutrient trading systems elsewhere in the world. Participating from the Natural Resources Institute are researchers Antti Iho and Lassi Ahlvik, who have previously studied the application of flexible mechanisms to environmental questions and, amongst other things, compared protection institutions in the Baltic Sea area and in the US.

From the viewpoint of the researchers, the project is a unique opportunity to promote and boost the efficiency of water protection in the Baltic Sea area. The mechanism that will be built in the project will enable protective measures that would be laborious to implement with public funding. In the best case scenario, the project will encourage citizens to protect the waters they love, and to act as forerunners for environmental protection implemented with public funding.’

– Antti Iho, Principal Research Scientist, Natural Resources Institute of Finland

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Further Information:

Anna Saarentaus
Project Manager, NutriTrade
Tel. +358-40-719020

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