Saving the Baltic sea
After the Copenhagen debacle, Finland has set a new standard for environmental action
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 14 February 2010 23.00 GMT
Finns aren't afraid to take on the world. Between 1939 and 1945, military minnow Finland was variously at war with the Soviet Union, Britain and Germany, and survived to tell the tale. The big problem in 1940 was not the large numbers of invading Red Army troops, Finns joked, it was where to bury them all.
Finland, population 5.3 million, challenged the international powers-that-be again last week, hosting an ambitious one-day "action summit" to rescue the Baltic sea from decades of pollution, environmental degradation and neglect. National leaders from all nine Baltic coastal states, plus "catchment" countries such as Norway and Belarus, attended. So too did EU representatives and about 1,500 delegates, representing regional organisations, large and small businesses, NGOs and local activist groups.
Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel did not come to Helsinki, which was probably a mistake. But Russia's most powerful man, Vladimir Putin, did. He pledged environment clean-up programmes around St Petersburg, on the Gulf of Finland, and in the Kaliningrad enclave. Dropping his tough guy act for a day, Putin emphasised that Russia, too, is green at heart. more