EU-trophication: Linking tax money to eutrophication of the Baltic Sea

Posted on 03 July 2007    
EU-TROPHICATION – linking tax money to eutrophication of the Baltic Sea
EU-TROPHICATION – linking tax money to eutrophication of the Baltic Sea

Over the last century mankind has transformed the Baltic Sea – a unique and highly vulnerable place – from a clearwater ecosystem into a eutrophic (nutrient-rich) marine environment. Today, it is heavily contaminated by nutrients that cause eutrophication, algal blooms and a range of serious problems for the ecosystem and for the people living around, and earning a living from, the Baltic Sea.

The main nutrients responsible for this pollution are nitrogen and phosphorus. Of the estimated 1,010,000 tonnes of nitrogen and 34,500 tonnes of phosphorus that are deposited annually in the Baltic Sea, roughly half come from the agricultural sector.

The European Union’s current agricultural policy promotes the intensification and concentration of agricultural production, and one of the results is to encourage the extensive use of artificial fertilisers. By giving large subsidies through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), without setting and enforcing strict environmental policies and measures against nutrient overload, the authorities are promoting nutrient-intensive farming – Eutro-farming – and in effect causing the problem.

In fact, by tracing the money from the tax-payer, via the EU CAP budget to agricultural subsidies in the Baltic Sea Countries, one can establish how much each tax-payer in each country around the Baltic is unwittingly contributing to Eutro-farming and ultimately to Baltic Sea eutrophication. On average, every single person in the region contributes €65 a year in taxes that promote Eutro-farming and the eutrophication of the Baltic Sea. No one actually wants to cause the eutrophication of the Baltic Sea or to contribute to the kind of farming that plays a large part in creating it, but modern European farming operates in a subsidy-driven market where actors act rationally to increase yields and profits.

Numerous measures are needed to reverse the Baltic Sea’s increasing eutrophication. Even though there are areas where more research is required, we already know more than enough to start acting on the problem today. It is now a matter of the highest urgency that the EU and its Member States develop and implement regulations and policies that end subsidies to Eutro-farming and instead direct their support to sustainable farming methods that avoid nutrient run-off that is dangerous to the Baltic Sea.

This report summarizes and explains some facts and figures used in WWF’s eutrophication campaign. It is not an empirical analysis but rather a compilation of information that already exists in the public domain.

EU-TROPHICATION – linking tax money to eutrophication of the Baltic Sea
EU-TROPHICATION – linking tax money to eutrophication of the Baltic Sea
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