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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

How unnecessarily high abatement costs and unresolved distributional issues undermine nutrient reductions to the Baltic Sea

Andersson, Anna; Brady, Mark V.; Pohjola, Johanna


This paper systematically reviews the literature on how to reduce nutrient emissions to the Baltic Sea cost-effectively and considerations for allocating these costs fairly among countries. The literature shows conclusively that the reduction targets of the Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) could be achieved at considerably lower cost, if countries would cooperate to implement the least costly abatement plan. Focusing on phosphorus abatement could be prudent as the often recommended measures—wastewater treatment and wetlands—abate nitrogen too. An implication of our review is that the potential for restoring the Baltic Sea to good health is undermined by an abatement strategy that is more costly than necessary and likely to be perceived as unfair by several countries. Neither the BSAP nor the cost-effective solution meet the surveyed criteria for fairness, implying a need for side-payments.


Baltic Sea; Cost effectiveness; Eutrophication; Fairness; Nutrients

Published in

AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment
2021, volume: 51, pages: 51–68

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Economics
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Economics
Lund University
Pohjola, Johanna
Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE)

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG14 Life below water
SDG10 Reduce inequality within and among countries

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences

Publication Identifiers


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