The revealed preferences of Baltic Sea governments: Goals, policy instruments, and implementation of nutrient abatement measures

Katarina Elofsson1 and Claudia von Brömssen2


1 Department of Economics, Box 7013, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, SE-750 07 UPPSALA, Sweden, e-mail:

2 Department of Energy and Technology, Box 7032, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, SE-750 07 UPPSALA, Sweden, e-mail:


Eutrophication of the Baltic Sea has been recognized as a major problem since the 1960s. Excessive nutrient loads are considered a major explanation. Internationally agreed upon nutrient reduction targets for the Baltic Sea were first defined in the Ministerial Declarations of 1988 and 1990. These declarations stipulated that by 1995, emissions of nitrogen and phosphorus to the Baltic Sea should be reduced by 50 percent of the emissions level 1985. These targets were not met, however. The Baltic Sea Action Program (BSAP), launched in 2007, defined new load reduction targets and required a decrease in nitrogen and phosphorus loads by 16 and 70 percent, respectively, compared to the reference period of 1997-2003. A subsequent follow-up suggests that substantial progress has been made towards the nitrogen target, where almost ¾ of the intended reduction was achieved, whereas for phosphorus, only ¼ of the targeted reduction was achieved. Most of the reductions made since the1980s are due to abatement at municipal and industrial point sources, but it has proven to be much more difficult to curb emissions from agriculture, forestry and scattered settlements. Consequently, agriculture remains the main source of nutrient inputs into the Baltic Sea. It is argued that the failure to reach overall load reduction targets can be explained by inefficient policy instruments and insufficient enforcement as well as rapidly increasing costs of abatement and political difficulties to distribute these costs among countries, sectors, and stakeholders. Together, this suggests that the reasons for not meeting targets can be found throughout the whole chain of policy choice, design, and enforcement.

The purpose of this study is to investigate the determinants of how nutrient abatement measures are implemented by countries in the agricultural sector in the Baltic Sea region. We investigate how goal setting, policy instrument choice, and the level of implementation of a measure are determined by characteristics of the abatement measure as well as the socio-economic characteristics of the country where it is implemented. To this end, we use cross-sectional data on 25 different measures in ten countries in the Baltic Sea catchment, compiled within the framework of the BONUS-funded BALTIC COMPASS project, in combination with data on institutional and economic conditions in the countries in question. The results suggest that income, institutional capacity, and economies of scope in abatement and enforcement are important determinants of policies developed and their implementation.