Monday, February 18, 2013

Part II: BACC - Cooperation and division of labor with HELCOM

As outlined in part I, BACC is dealing with an assessment of the knowledge about climate, climate change and climate impact in the Baltic Sea Basin. It determines which knowledge claims are made in the legitimate scientific literature, to what extent the scientific community agrees and to what extent it disagrees. BACC does not draw conclusions about possible societal responses to the findings - it has no democratically legitimate mandate for doing so, and lacks competence, because responding to risks, possibilities and changes needs much more insight than understanding changing geophysical conditions. Responding has much to do with economy, with perceptions and societal values and preferences, cultural conditioning, and competition of utilities.

It was therefore fortunate that in the early phase of BACC, the international HELCOM or "Baltic Marine Environment Commission" showed up and requested an assessment of the type, BACC was about to construct. HELCOM, as a clearly political body established by the states in the Baltic Sea Basin,  "is the governing body of the "Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area" - more usually known as the Helsinki Convention."

On its webpage, it reads:

"In pursuing this objective and vision the riparian countries have jointly pooled their efforts in HELCOM, which is works as:
  • an environmental policy maker for the Baltic Sea area by developing common environmental objectives and actions;
  • an environmental focal point providing information about (i) the state of/trends in the marine environment; (ii) the efficiency of measures to protect it and (iii) common initiatives and positions which can form the basis for decision-making in other international fora;
  • a body for developing, according to the specific needs of the Baltic Sea, Recommendations of its own and Recommendations supplementary to measures imposed by other international organisations;
  • a supervisory body dedicated to ensuring that HELCOM environmental standards are fully implemented by all parties throughout the Baltic Sea and its catchment area; and
  • a co-ordinating body, ascertaining multilateral response in case of major maritime incidents."

With respect to BACC it was agreed, that HELCOM would write its own assessment report, whose fact basis on climate would be the BACC report, but which would formulate its own political conclusions - the results was the "HELCOM Thematic Assessment in 2007 on Climate Change in the Baltic Sea Area.

Now,  while the 2nd BACC report is constructed, a similar arrangement is prepared with HELCOM. A workshop was organized by HELCOM in Warnemünde at the Institut für Ostseeforschung (IOW) in early February 2013. The workshop discussed the preliminary findings of BACC-2 (for a summary refer to Part I here on Klimazwiebel). The result of these discussion were summed up in a report, which included these Proposals from the Workshop
  • Climate change impacts should be included into the Baltic Sea Action Plan load reduction scheme review
  • Other human pressures should be decreased to mitigate the climate impacts on biodiversity
  • Acidification requires attention
  • Climate risks and vulnerability
  • Develop and maintain marine monitoring and data assimilation
  • Apply a multiple-stressor and holistic approach
  • Research needs
  • Communicate uncertainties
  • Improve the communication between science and policy
  • Knowledge on climate change and Baltic Sea impacts should be reviewed at regular intervals

In summary, the relationship between BACC and HELCOM reminds to some extent on IPCC and teh Conference of the Parties, COP, with the significant difference, that BACC is a body with the limited mandate of assessing the knowledge without speculating or even recommending specific political measures, which is completely in the field of HELCOM. On the other hand, HELCOM is not interfering with the assessment process of the scientific knowledge.

Note that the BACC process runs its own BACC-blog.