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Newsletter #6

Documentation of the 4th EcoRegion Conference

Region Zealand, Denmark, 1st - 3rd June 2010

1. Welcome to Region Zealand and Study Tour

The EcoRegion conference started with the presentation of sustainable development goals and activities in Region Zealand. Participants got an overview of basic regional data and facts, state of Local Agenda 21 and Regional Climate Strategy implementation, sustainable tourism efforts linked to hiking trails and nature parks.
All project partners joint the study tour to Feddet Camping, the first Danish camping site that was awarded the international eco-label the "Green Key". Many features show its commitment to sustainable development, for example biomass-fired heating, eco buildings, organic fruit and nature activities.
The study tour continued with a trip to the island of Nyord. The island forms part of the Destination Møn, which was certified according to the destination 21 recognition scheme. Local produce and natural values are an essential part of sustainable tourism on the island.
Partners visited a farm shop unique in Denmark with an assortment of non-bottled spirits in casks and wine, locally produced arts and handicrafts. 
They further discussed the concept of sustainable destinations and its linkage to experience economy.

2. Welcome by the lead partner and overview of project progress

Dörte Ratzmann from the German Ministry of Environment gave a short overview of the project progess.
Tim Mahler from the GTZ presented project management issues. The most pressing issue discussed was how to deal with the project underspending.
Partners welcomed the representatives of the city of Kaunas, the city of Riga and the county of Soltau-Fallingbostel, which joined the EcoRegion Conference for the first time. 

3. Sector opportunities to act within CBSS - Baltic 21 Expert Group

Mia Crawford from CBSS Secretariat presented the CBSS Strategy for Sustainable Development. Special attention was given to the 3 actions that were defined for each of the 4 strategic areas of cooperation. The actions will generally be implemented via a mix of projects which are already running (mostly Lighthouse Projects), currently applied for or still in the planning stage.
In the Sector-to-Sector Workshop participants discussed the possible input of the Energy, Spatial Planning and Transport sectors which in the future will have a minor role in the new Baltic 21 structure. Energy and spatial planning related issues will be forwarded to BASREC and VASAB. More generally, since the EcoRegion project is explicitly mentioned in the Strategy, its activities and results will be an integral part of the Strategy's implementation.
In a brainstorming session, sectors identified concrete possibilities to act within the 4 strategic fields of cooperation of Baltic 21. 
Most prominently featured was the idea to develop new, joint initiatives in the following areas: 
a) climate-smart agriculture and forestry
b) sustainable tourism as part of urban planning
c) youth culture and sustainable lifestyles 
It was agreed to develop these ideas further for more detailed discussions in Tallinn.
Especially for developing initiatives in the area of youth a task force was established.
Project partners agreed that a Brochure on EcoRegion policy recommendations will be produced. The brochure will be based on the findings of the good practice collection, the interlinkages / discussions with regions and the work on the EcoRegion Perspectives within the project. 

4. Regional training on Integrated Sustainability Management: Sustainability targets as the leading guideline of local policy-making

The 3rd ICLEI training workshop focused on the 3rd step of the Integrated Management Cycle: Political Commitment. Together with ICLEI regions discussed on how to cooperate with / involve political actors in their sustainable development initiatives and on how to realize such cooperation in the framework of the EcoRegion project.
Update on regional activities and ICLEI support

City of Riga
An ICLEI visit was held in March 2010, focusing on integrated sustainability management. The city is working on its Environmental Programme 2011-18 & Action Plan and interested in clear budgeting and monitoring mechanisms (ecoBudget to be considered).
County of Soltau-Fallingbostel
The county is focusing on the storm risk management plan in forests. ICLEI involvement will be defined as soon as the work plan is more advanced.
Province of Akershus
Main issues are urban sprawl (collect information on land use, building structure, studies and estimates on housing demand), Regional Climate Action Strategy, transport. Support from ICLEI has to be defined.
County of Ludwigslust
Two joint EcoRegion/New Bridges workshops were already held in January and April 2010, facilitated by ICLEI, to establish priorities and then define relevant measures. Main issue are demographic change, mobility in rural areas, river re-naturalization, energy saving in public schools.
City of Tallin
The city is working on energy (SEAP to be approved in June 2010) and transport issues (SUTP to be developed). An ICLEI visit, linked to the Sustainable Now project, is planned for September 2010.
Lahti Region
The region is working on target-setting for Aalborg Commitments and on the city strategy renewal. It needs support in the fields of training for SD Committee and maintaining the involvement of social and health departments in the AC process. Dates for the ICLEI visit will be confirmed in August (the visit will probably take place in autumn).
County of Kronoberg / City of Växjö
Växjö is working on the inner city climate plan and internal SD organization.
Kronoberg is working on climate change strategy development and climate contracts for the private sector.
SD seminars for local and regional politicians and civil servants, with participation of ICLEI, are scheduled for November 2010.
City of Kaunas
The city is interested in developing an integrated cycling infrastructure. An ICLEI visit, focusing on sustainable mobility, is tentatively scheduled for summer 2010.
Region Zealand
The region is focusing on sustainable business development. It will hold an internal workshop on integrated sustainability management on June 15 and use it to define how to use ICLEI expertise.

5. Region-to-Region workshop 

In the region-to-region workshop, regional partners discussed the state of inter-regional cooperation.
Participants came to the conclusion that regional priorities are different and that it is a big challenge to find ways of mutual support and cooperation. Bjarne Rasmussen from Region Zealand will circulate an overview of regional EcoRegion activities in order to further support the identification of fields of cooperation.
In the upcoming EcoRegion conference in Tallinn, regions will continue their dialogue on inter-regional cooperation and also try to create linkages with sectoral activities.

6. Workshop on good practice exchange among sectors and regions

In 8 sector-specific sessions sectors and regions exchanged on the good practices collected so far. 
All sectors gave a short introductory presentation on the approach taken, main findings, including problems encountered and still existing gaps.
Some sectors have approached the good practice collection by identifying relevant thematic fields and systematically searching for practices in such fields; other sectors preferred addressing their networks and taking on board the practices offered / recommended by them.
On the basis of the sectors' presentations, regions gave their feedback on usefulness and applicability of the practices for the local and regional level. Sectors will include regional comments and advice in the further good practice collection.

Progress of good practice collection by sectors:

Conclusions of good practice exchange among sectors and regions:

Forest management issues are subject to different national rules (e.g. private ownership of forests in some BSR countries vs. public ownership in others). Nevertheless regions considered the practices collected by the Forest Sector as interesting and transferable. The following issues were advised to be further considered when proceeding with the good practice collection: ash recycling, education centers, rural development, climate issues.
The Agriculture Sector did not include in the good practice collection Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) since these practices are already well-established and preferred investigating innovative solutions that could take current practices even further. Regional participants appreciated this approach and recognized the importance of the sector as it "gives face" to the environment. They suggested to collect further practices on the evaluation of different land uses (e.g. production of biomass for energy production vs. husbandry for increasing rural population).
The Transport Sector concluded that the good practices collected have high relevance for updating information and knowledge, evaluating earlier initiatives, increasing awareness, connecting cases and people, taking the practices some steps further. Furthermore they serve both for direct application / transfer and as an inspiration for policy development.
The Tourism Sector will broaden its collection: its good practices shall not only be useful for regional authorities but also for concrete businesses / entrepreneurs. Linkages of the good practices to the Aalborg commitments will not be considered as mandatory since the main focus of the sector is on rural areas which are not addressed by the commitments.
In the further good practice collection the Energy Sector will consider the following issues: broadening of the geographical and thematic coverage of the collection, strengthening of cooperation with regions and gathering of practices on specific regional interests (e.g. horizontal windmills), inclusion of technological innovations as long as they are already implemented and respond to regional needs, inclusion of both energy supply from public and private sector.
In the Spatial Planning Sector seminar participants discussed good practices on stakeholder involvement in BSR regions  (e.g. via internet), cross-border spatial planning, management of unexpected funds for infrastructure (e.g. linked to big public events, such as the world cup), management of former military areas.
Regions suggested that the following issues should be further investigated: stakeholder involvement through neighborhood planning, spatial planning and energy saving measures, sustainability indicators for planning processes, old town center planning.
The Education Sector seminar focused on education for sustainable development in schools. Participants discussed possibilities of integrating ESD in their daily work. Regions suggested to further collect practices in the following fields: ESD methods to counter drop-outs and promote even education standards for all pupils; ESD in rural areas which lack qualified teachers and which are progressively closing down; informal education; innovation and youth; entrepreneurial trainings for youngsters. 

7. EcoRegion good practice database 

Is the EcoRegion good practice database a "living" tool?
Sectors discussed on what will happen with the good practice database after the project ends. The majority of the sectors -but not all- supported the idea that the database should be a “living tool” and thus be maintained / updated after the end of the 3 years project implementation. However sectors differed in how often such updates might be necessary in order to reflect new developments in their fields.
Suggestion was made that the database could be linked to the CBSS – Baltic 21 expert group or to the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (DG Regio). Financial support -necessary for the database update- would need to be secured (i.e. BMU country donation to CBSS).
An ad hoc working group was set up to continue the discussion on how to promote the good practice database and possibly ensure its updating & maintenance after the project is finished. The working group is composed of BMU (Dörte Ratzmann), Energy sector (Andrzej Tonderski & Mariusz Wójcik) and CBSS Expert Group - Baltic 21 (Mia Crawford). Participation of the city of Riga still needs to be confirmed.
The working group shall discuss on a paper / proposal to be produced and circulated by s.Pro. Conclusions will be presented at the next EcoRegion meeting in Tallinn.
Quality check of EcoRegion good practices
It was confirmed that the quality of the good practices is checked by the sectors: the general assumption is that a sector has the expertise to decide if a practice is a good practice or not. Sectors agreed that the database would NOT be open for public input.
First ideas on database promotion
It was agreed that the good practices documented in the database will be further analysed by the sectors and main findings will be promoted via a brochure on EcoRegion recommendations to be published at the end of project implementation. 
s.Pro is in contact with the JTS and assessing the possibility of featuring the EcoRegion good practice database as well as regional activities in the September issue of the JTS Newsletter. 
The database could also be promoted via an award system: the best practices could be published in the CBSS Journal “Balticness”.
Upcoming deadlines
30. June 2010: the database will go on-line and be available (for reading) for the general public. By then all sectors shall check the good practices submitted; regions are invited to view the practices and give their comments.
As soon as possible: a discussion paper for the working group on the good practice database will be produced and circulated by s.Pro.
Before the summer break 2010: the working group on the good practice database will discuss the database and its promotion.
September 2010: EcoRegion database and regional activities are promoted in the JTS Newsletter issue; working group on the good practice database presents results at the Tallinn Conference
Mid-end 2011: publication of the brochure "EcoRegion Recommendations"

8. Further issues / decisions taken

Please contribute to the EcoRegion Perspectives!

After approval of the PSC, each coordinator will send the concept / structure of its issue of the EcoRegion Perspectives to the project partners. According to the concept / structure, project partners (sectors and regions) are invited to give their contribution / write articles.

Planned dates for upcoming publications:
November 2010: Forest issue on "Landscape, integrated management, cross-sectoral co-operation in practice" (coordinated by Simon Jonegard, Forest Sector)
January 2011:  Spatial Planning issue on "Territorial Cohesion" (coordinated by Jacek Zaucha, Satial Planning Sector) 
Mid-term self evaluation

Tim Mahler from GTZ will send to all partners a questionnaire. All partners are asked to contribute to this evaluation and it will be part of the agenda in Tallinn.

Next EcoRegion Meetings

28 - 30 September 2010: 5th EcoRegion Conference in Tallinn, Estonia
16 - 20 May (week 21) 2011: 6th EcoRegion Conference in Oslo, Norway
By end of June 2010: PSC and host will decide on the dates of the final conference to be held in Gdańsk or Gdynia, Poland

Photos of the 4th EcoRegion Conference & study trip can be found on the EcoRegion Photo Gallery.