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Opening speech by Prime Minister Antti Rinne at the Artictic Circle Assembly 10.10.

Government Communications Department
Publication date 10.10.2019 16.00 | Published in English on 10.10.2019 at 16.03
Speech 522/2019

Your Royal Highness, Dear Katrín, Mr Chairman, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends of the Arctic, It is a great pleasure for me to address the seventh Arctic Circle Assembly.

President Grimsson, what a unique event you have created!

I am happy to be here also because Iceland holds the Chair of the Arctic Council. Finland chaired the Council until last Spring. For us, the Arctic Council is the core of Arctic cooperation.

We need strong leadership and concrete cooperation here more than ever.

The arctic has global importance and gets global attention like never before.

Finland is a strong supporter of the rules-based international order. It is important that the multilateral approach applies also to the Arctic. The International Maritime Organization for example plays an important role here.

But first and foremost, an effective Arctic Council helps in focusing our minds on what truly counts for the Arctic and us all. Like elsewhere, the logic of power balance and spheres of interest creates tensions and we do not want this in the Arctic.

Dear Katrín, Iceland can count on our support.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As we can see from this event, more and more people in the Arctic and beyond understand the dramatic changes affecting us.

In the Arctic, nature is unforgiving. What we do to the Arctic stays with us forever. The ice will melt away if we are not serious in our fight against climate change.

We must think in very concrete terms. For example how to reduce emissions of black carbon?

Also, the peoples of the Arctic will not forgive our mistakes. Livelihoods and the rights of the peoples living here must be respected.

The Arctic offers also opportunities. Yes, the area has vast natural resources. Energy will be discussed later today.

Of course, it makes sense to connect the world by the Arctic. Think about Europe and Asia, and how the connections could develop through the arctic. Europe-Asia trade is already more than a half of global trade and 65 percent of global economy.

I was speaking in Brussels two weeks ago at the EU – Asia Connectivity Forum. There are sustainable ways to connect. For example Finland promotes a new fibre optic data cable to connect Asia with Europe.

Connections and services are needed also for remote areas of the Arctic. They can offer business opportunities as well. Here, Finland promotes active international cooperation on space solutions for a sustainable Arctic.

But without clear rules, the respect of the international agreements and leadership connections will bring more risks for the arctic.

We still have the chance to get the balance right for future generations. We need to combine different perspectives. Ecosystem-based, global, regional and local approaches are needed.

This is why I like the Arctic Circle Assembly. Peoples, governments, civil society – all stakeholders from countries that are members of the Arctic Council, and from further away are all here.

Dear arctic friends,

The first word in the program of my Government is ´climate change´. This is so, because we do not want it become the last word of humankind.

The most recent Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change should sound alarms.

We all remember schoolgirl Greta Thunberg and her solitary demonstration only a year ago. By now her example has turned into a global movement.

This movement can reasonably expect that the decision makers of today, their fathers and mothers, are prepared to make difficult decisions in order to save their future.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We need to be ready for the changes, but we must also keep our heads cool, get up and act.

Finland has reduced carbon emissions over 21 percent from the 1990 level. I am confident that we will be able to meet the 2020 emission targets of the European Union ahead of time.

My Government has the objective of Finland being carbon neutral by 2035 and carbon negative shortly thereafter.

Also the private sector can help. We should focus more on circular and bioeconomy. According to some estimates the global economic output by 2030 could amount to 4 to 5 trillion dollars and to 25 trillion by 2050 if the business potential of the circular economy is realized.

Dear arctic friends,

Finland is an Arctic nation. We are proud of that. My government will prepare a new strategy on Arctic policy. This will set out Finland´s long-term goals in the region.

Fight against climate change, sustainable development and respect for the rights of the indigenous peoples will be at the center of the strategy. We work to help keep the Arctic free from tensions.

Finland is also a committed polar actor. We are one of the consultative members of the Antarctic Treaty. Our two polar regions both face several similar challenges. Interaction between those focusing on the North and those focusing on the South is needed. 

Mr Chairperson, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Finland is proudly arctic in many international organizations. We see great value for more interaction between different actors and organizations. Finland will chair the Barents Euro-Arctic Council again for the two year period starting in 2021.

But we would like the European Union to see its arctic potential as well. Finland is currently President of the EU Council.

We do our best to keep Arctic issues high on the EU agenda. We believe that there should be more EU in the Arctic and more Arctic in the EU. 

I believe that a new joint communication on the EU’s Arctic Policy building on the incoming Commission’s priorities would be useful in this regard.

Our EU-Presidency slogan is “Sustainable Europe – Sustainable Future”. This approach applies to how we see the European Union’s role in the Arctic.

The EU has a lot to offer in research and innovation, environmental and climate action. The EU has a key role in promoting sustainable economic activity in the infrastructure, transport and energy sectors.

This is for the benefit of both the Arctic and its peoples. More European sustainable investment in the High North is in the interest of us all.

During our Presidency in November, we will organize the “Clean and Global North” event in Helsinki and he traditional Arctic Spirit event in the Arctic capital Rovaniemi. The Arctic Spirit will focus on climate change especially from the viewpoint of young people and future generations. In this context, I also want to highlight the Arctic Leaders’ Summit, a unique longstanding forum for indigenous peoples that will also take place in Rovaniemi in November.

Dear Arctic Friends,

I do not know if there was one single person in this room who was not touched by the teary eyes of Greta Thunberg in New York. I was.

She looked into the cameras and said that we have stolen her dreams and her childhood and betrayed them. “How dare you”, she asked. I don’t, do you?

Thank you.