Environmental communication workshop

Time: 22 May 2014
Place: Tallinn, Estonia, Tallinn University

The purpose of the workshop was to introduce the CITYWATER project aims, results and activities to representatives of municipalities and in the discussion session gather information about their previous communication experiences and collect input for the final work package outcome, the formulation of the Baltic Sea Challenge communication plan. The seminar was hosted by Tallinn University Institute of Communication on May 22nd 2014.

The workshop was targeted to environmental specialists working in municipalities. The number or participants was 15, out of which 9 were from different Estonian municipalities.
The day included a series of presentations and a discussion session. The workshop was opened by Kaja Tampere, Professor of Communication Management at Tallinn University, who briefly introduced the environmental communication related activities of Tallinn University and talked about the power of communication to bring forth the desired changes.

The overall aims and activities of the CITYWATER project were introduced by Karolin Kairo-Gasman from Tallinn City Government. She also presented the possibilities within the Baltic Sea Challenge program and invited municipalities to join.

First results of the communication survey presented
Photo: Tina NyforsThe following presenter was Arko Olesk (picture to the left) from Tallinn University Institute of Communication. He introduced the first results from the two surveys that were conducted by Tallinn University within the CITYWATER project: first the survey of the citizens of the three Baltic states, then a survey of the Estonian coastal municipalities.

The citizen survey featured a number of questions about the awareness and attitudes towards water protection on the local level. The results showed that local municipality is an important actor for people in matters of water protection: for example, when they notice a pollution source they are most likely to notify the municipality about it and a vast majority thinks that municipality should value water protection as highly as issues like social services or education. However, they are not very aware of the activities that the municipalities have done and more than 90 per cent have not taken part in any water protection related activity in their home region.

Cost-benefit analysis as a tool for water protection work
The survey also focused on the question of cost-benefit analysis (CBA) as a beneficial tool for initiating and planning municipality water protection activities. The results show that in Estonia the municipalities have so far very little used CBA but most find that availability of such a tool would make them pay more attention to water protection activities.

In the discussion following this presentation the representatives of municipalities reflected on the results, proposing explanations for some of the data of the citizen’s survey. For example, they argued that the higher awareness of municipality water protection activities in Estonia compared to Latvia and Lithuania might be due to more projects involving renovation and building of drinking water pipelines and waste water treatment plants.

Photo: Tina Nyfors

Workshop

After a small coffee break all participants gathered to a round table for the workshop part of the day. The workshop, led by Kaja Tampere, Esta Kaal and Arko Olesk from Tallinn University, sought to hear experiences with communicating water protection projects to identify main obstacles and best practices. Most of the discussion was centred around how is best to engage and inform citizens, and the practical difficulties connected to that. The participants highlighted the problems in current practices, including the way informing citizens is currently done. The participants argued that a short notice in a local or municipality paper about upcoming public discussions or changes in regulations is not able to engage people in matters that concern their home area. Also, a change in behavior is hard to achieve as can be seen in the case of garbage and recycling, especially in rural areas. As better practices, the workshop proposed more personal ways of informing people such as collective events, directly posting more explanatory informational sheets and engaging local leaders in the awareness campaigns.

Another highlighted problem was the lack of an integrated approach on environmental matters. The specialists pointed out that information relevant on the municipal level is scattered on various national databases and websites. This also leads to the situation where citizens are getting environmental information about different topics from several sources whereas the message should be more coherent to allow for environmentally friendly behaviour in general and not just concerning one topic.

Going more in dept with cost-benefit analysis
The second half of the day was dedicated to issues related to cost-benefit analysis and aimed to show best practices in this field that the local municipalities could adopt in making their own decisions in environmental matters. First, Mart Reimann from Tallinn University presented some ways in which CBA has been used in Estonia. He introduced methods that involve calculating the costs and benefits of an environmental decision via the value of property or calculating the monetary value of ecosystem services. Based on actual cases he concluded that these methods are a valuable tool for local municipalities. A lively discussion followed his talk about how these methods could be applied in the everyday decision making process in the municipalities.

Finally, Eliisa Punttila, the CITYWATER project expert from City of Helsinki Environment Centre introduced the work done on CBA within the project. Her presentation detailed the necessary steps for implementing the analysis and gave an overview of some of the projects under analysis within the CITYWATER project.

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