Students from 70 countries gather in Finland for climate summit

Young students across the country have been organising school strikes to voice their concerns about climate change. Picture of a demonstration in Joensuu, eastern Finland earlier this year. (Pauliina Tolvanen/Yle)
Nearly 200 school children and 90 teachers from around the world poured into the North Karelian region of eastern Finland for the World Summit of Students for Climate 2019 (WSSC) on Wednesday. The event aims to include young voices in the climate change conversation, challenge the Paris Climate Accord of 2016 and vote on a joint agreement.

The first half of the week-long event will take place in the city of Joensuu and the municipality of Liperi in North Karelia (eastern Finland) before moving to Helsinki, where the students will declare their climate agreement on 5 June — World Environment Day. Finnish President Sauli Niinistö is the patron of the summit.

Finnish teacher at the helm
Finnish teacher Mika Vanhanen founded a global web community for environmental issues. (Jouki Väinämö/Yle)

The main organiser of the summit is ENO (Environment Online) Schoolnet — a global school network and web community for sustainable development — founded by Mika Vanhanen, a primary school teacher in North Karelia, in 2000. To date, around 10,000 schools from almost 160 countries have participated in its activities.

“This campaign challenges schools around the world to commit to the goal of drawing out three million tonnes of CO2 by 2026 through initiatives like planting trees in areas where they are most needed,” Vanhanen explained.

100 million trees planted

ENO’s most-lauded initiative was encouraging schools from around the world to plant trees — they met a goal of planting 100 million trees in 2017. In the same year, the organisation developed a plan for an international climate conference for school students.

“Together, we want to find solutions that kids can incorporate into their own everyday lives. Through schools, climate awareness can spread to homes and other communities. Climate strikes by pupils are already a visible phenomenon but we need other initiatives, too,” Vanhanen said.

In Finland, the project is backed by several ministries in addition to the cities of Helsinki and Joensuu. Apart from President Niinistö, the presidents of France and Slovenia have also expressed their support for this summit.

The 14-17-year-olds participating in the World Summit of Students for Climate Change have carried out preliminary groundwork in their own countries. At the meeting, they will vote on a joint statement and agree on future action to mitigate climate change.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Sea levels could rise by up to 2 metres by 2100, new study finds, CBC News

Finland: New climate studies program coming to schools in Finland, Yle News

Norway: Unfazed by youth climate protests, Norwegian gov expands Arctic drilling, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: North Pole camp season cancelled before it even started, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Sweden’s emissions are rising instead of falling, Radio Sweden

United States: 2018 was the 4th-warmest year on record, NOAA and NASA reveal, CBC News

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