Finland at COP21: ‘Small steps will no longer do’

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö at a press conference in Russia in August 2014. (Ivan Sekretarev /AFP/Getty Images)
“As an Arctic country, we in Finland have witnessed twice as fast warming compared to [the] global average,” Finnish President Sauli Niinistö (pictured above in Russia in 2014) told the COP21 conference on Monday. (Ivan Sekretarev /AFP/Getty Images)
Addressing the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris on Monday, the Finnish president likened his country to “a global thermometer”.

He noted that Finland has already “witnessed twice as fast warming compared to [the] global average”.

Along with more than 120 other heads of state and government, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö attended the opening ceremony of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris on Monday. He also spoke at the Leaders’ Event, where he began – as most speakers did – by expressing condolences for this month’s terror attacks in the city.

“As against terrorism, we need a concrete and united approach to combat climate change,” declared the president.

Niinistö went on to note that countries in the far north are already experiencing relatively faster global warming than those further south.

“As an Arctic country, we in Finland have witnessed twice as fast warming compared to [the] global average. In a way, we are acting as a global thermometer,” he suggested.

“Maximum effort by smaller boots”

Niinistö called for setting a “global and operational, scientifically based long-term emissions reduction goal”. This, he said, must be followed by “stocktaking every five years to set possible new targets”.

“Small steps will no longer do. The biggest steps need to be taken by those with the biggest boots. But maximum effort has to be made also by involving those with smaller boots.”

Niinistö chairs the Finnish delegation, whose vice chairs are Prime Minister Juha Sipilä, Minister of Agriculture and the Environment Kimmo Tiilikainen and Finland’s Principal Negotiator, Senior Environmental Adviser Harri Laurikka of the Environment Ministry. Others on hand include Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Lenita Toivakka and Minister of Justice and Employment Jari Lindström.

Laurikka will lead Finnish efforts as part of the EU negotiating team during the conference, which is scheduled to wrap up on December 11.

President cites Finnish Climate Pledge

Urging the “engagement of the whole civil society,” Niinistö also mentioned the Finnish Climate Pledge, whereby citizens promise to halve their personal carbon footprints within a decade.

“In Finland we have come up with a citizen’s Climate Pledge, where all who sign up agree to decrease their own carbon footprint by half within a decade. In the end, it is up to us, the individuals to shape our own habits,” added Niinistö.

Those publically signing the pledge so far include the president along with Sipilä, Tiilikainen, Toivakka and former environment ministers Pekka Haavisto and Ville Niinistö – the latter the president’s nephew. A day earlier, Tiilikainen spoke at a climate march in Helsinki, along with his predecessors Haavisto and Niinistö.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: COP21 – View from Nunavut, Canada, Eye on the Arctic

Finland:  Finnish negotiators optimistic about COP21, Yle News

Germany:  Energy giant sued for climate change, Deutsche Welle

Norway:  Arctic residents in hot water, Deutsche Welle’s Iceblogger

Sweden:  Swedish PM underlines importance of COP21, Radio Sweden

United States:  Cleaner atmosphere means more Arctic ice melt: study, Alaska Dispatch News

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