Climate Knowledge for Regional Coastal Stakeholders in the Eastern Baltic Sea Region
How do decision makers in Poland and the Baltic states perceive climate change and climate change adaptation? What impact will climate change have in coastal regions, and how can stakeholders there prepare themselves? What information is available to them? What programs have already been implemented? A series of workshops organized by Ecologic Institute in cooperation with various partners has addressed these questions. The workshops in Szczecin, Gdansk, Klaipeda, and Riga were commonly organized by members of the Baltadapt, "Regional availability of climate knowledge in the Baltic Sea region" (Circum Mare Balticum) and RADOST projects. The presentations are available for download.
At each workshop, information about climate change and adaptation at the local level was provided, including in the form of speeches from participants from Germany, Poland, and other Baltic states. Susanne Altvater moderated the workshops. Franziska Stuke held a presentation about existing (regional) adaptation strategies and Grit Martinez presented results from a survey among decision maker at the German coast. At two of the workshops "ad hoc" surveys were given to the participants in order to investigate their perception of climate change and climate change adaptation. With the aid of modern technology, the answers could immediately be answered and the results displayed. This allowed for an immediate discussion of exciting or surprising results. The survey form used was based on an earlier survey given to decision makers from the German Baltic coast as a part of the RADOST project in early 2011 (see the publication "A survey of the perceptions of regional political decision makers concerning climate change and adaptation in the German Baltic Sea region".
Even if the results from the survey cannot be viewed as representative due to the small number and makeup of the group, they still give an indication of possible interesting research topics for the future. Expanding the surveys given to decision makers from the German coast to include other Baltic riparian states was greeted by the participants, and several different institutions signaled their interest in working together on the survey.
The workshops were also used to gather information about the need and current status of knowledge regarding a European adaptation strategy in discussion groups. This adaptation strategy should be elaborated for the entire Baltic Sea area as part of the Baltadapt project.
It became clear in the discussion groups that interest in climate change adaptation measures is fairly low in Poland and the Baltic states at a local and regional level. Various explanations were given for this; for example, participants from Poland stated that institutions that could deliver the information to local decision makers did not exist. A representative from Gdansk explained that water and air quality, energy security, and nature conservation are higher on the city’s environment department’s list of priorities than climate change adaptation. A reason for this was perceived to be insufficient communication and information structures. Available information about climate change must be made understandable and accessible for communities and the general public. Another deciding factor affecting the introduction of adaptation measures was a lack of funds.
Positive examples were also presented though. Justas Kayz from the Universität Vilnius reported on activities in the Smeltale river basin, and Andris Urtans (Nature Conservation Agency, Latvia) presented measures from the Latvian community of Salacgriva. He emphasized the importance of integration of the local population. For example, he spoke about the reclamation and redevelopment of the self-purification capacity of small rivers in the area and how the perception of these measures by the local populace was increased by their participation.
An evaluation of the workshops shows that adaptation to climate change has enjoyed relatively little priority in Poland and the Baltic states up until now. Knowledge and information about climate change and its possible effects are available; however, the political will has not been available to take up comprehensive measures. Because financial sources are a deciding factor, more support for adaptation from the EU is of great importance.
Additionally, the workshops evidenced that the topic is taken particularly seriously by the participants. The results from the surveys show this without question. Based on these results, two important areas shows promise for future research: it is necessary to investigate the informational needs of decision makers and the public and to transform the existing knowledge about climate change and adaptation in such a way that it is understandable and useful for all targeted stakeholders.
For further information about the organizers of this workshop and their relevant projects, please see the following links. Summaries of the proceedings and results of the individual workshops can be found on the Circum Mare Balticum project website.