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Speech delivered by Prime Minister Sanna Marin at the stakeholder event on Arctic policy

Government Communications Department
Publication date 18.2.2020 14.23

Speech by Prime Minister Sanna Marin at the “Globally Influential Finland in the Arctic Region” stakeholder event on 18 February 2020. Speech to be checked against delivery:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to the House of the Estates, also on my behalf.

The theme of today’s stakeholder event is “Globally Influential Finland in the Arctic Region”. The Arctic Council and the Arctic states, including Finland, are at the heart of Arctic cooperation.

The importance of the Arctic region has also grown for countries outside of the Arctic. The Arctic Council is now seeing increased international interest: it currently has 38 observers, and more and more parties are looking to get involved.

Climate change is opening the Arctic region to new aspirations, connections and services – but also to new tensions and to the exploitation of its natural resources. The Arctic is not immune to the geopolitical competition challenging the multilateral world order. We want to keep the region free of tensions and outside of spheres of influence, and to focus on strengthening the Arctic Council. We want to see results in the areas of sustainable development, mitigating and adapting to climate change, promoting Arctic expertise and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples – but at the same time, we cannot turn a blind eye to change. We must also think about the Arctic from the perspective of security policy.

Dear friends of the Arctic,

From a global perspective, Finland is a key polar player even on a broader scale. Besides being one of the eight permanent members of the Arctic Council, we are one of the 29 Member States that participates in decision-making concerning Antarctica. In addition to us, there are only four other countries with the right to make decisions on the issues of both polar regions. This puts us in a position to influence polar issues extensively.

Finland can be a leader in the Arctic region. This is the goal of Finland’s Arctic policy and, at the same time, a major challenge. Leadership is demonstrated though action. We can achieve action both locally and internationally. Our greatest challenge is global warming.

This change is felt even more strongly in the north than elsewhere. The Saami have first-hand knowledge of climate change; they see changes in palsa and fell ecosystems and in the species native to their homeland.

Our positive challenge is to bring together traditional, experience-based knowledge and scientific research. We need to engage in more dialogue with one another.

Respect for the rights of indigenous peoples plays an important role in Finland’s policy and is being taken into account in drawing up our Arctic strategy. The purpose of the ongoing truth and reconciliation process concerning the Saami people is to identify and assess the historical and current discrimination of the Saami and to examine its effects on the Saami people and their communities. Above all, the aim is to strengthen the relationship between the Saami people and the state of Finland.

I hope we will be able to make progress in setting up the Saami Truth and Reconciliation Commission during the spring so that it can start its work next autumn. 

Dear friends of the Arctic,

As we are all well aware, and as we have also heard today, the pace of global warming in the Arctic is around twice the average in the northern hemisphere. During the period between 1971 and 2017, the temperature has increased by 2.7 degrees Celsius. Changes in the Arctic affect weather phenomena far away from the region. For example, 30 per cent of the global rise in sea levels during the 1992–2017 period is due to the melting of Arctic glaciers, especially in Greenland.

This is why we must focus on combating climate change in the Arctic region. Finland has been globally influential in this arena, too, for example in reducing black carbon emissions both in the Arctic countries and elsewhere.

At the national level, Finland aims to be carbon neutral by 2035 and carbon negative shortly thereafter. We will do this by accelerating emissions reduction measures and strengthening carbon sinks. Finland advocates for responsible climate goals at the national, Nordic, EU and global levels alike. As part of the European Union, Finland is committed to the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Because the EU’s current emission reduction targets are not sufficient to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement, it has been proposed that the EU’s 2030 targets be raised. In line with the Government Programme, Finland is pushing for the target to be raised to 55 per cent. In connection with updating the 2030 EU emission reduction target, we should also consider how we can raise the target as cost-effectively and as fairly as possible.

To this effect, one of the key measures is to draw up a road map for sustainable taxation, which includes reforming energy and transport taxation, promoting a circular economy and exploring the possibility of an emissions-based consumption tax. The preparations will seek solutions that promote the Government’s climate objectives in the most economically effective way, accelerating the shift away from fossil fuels and supporting the development of new technologies and services. These decisions must take into account social and regional justice.

In addition, the Climate Change Act is being revised to meet the Government’s carbon neutrality target by, for instance, including the land use sector and the carbon sink reinforcement target.

The Arctic Council remains at the heart of Arctic cooperation. Observer countries and indigenous peoples play an important and unique role in the Council’s activities. The Arctic Council needs both political support and sufficient resources to support its work. My Government’s Programme calls for strengthening Arctic cooperation as one of the means of strengthening the Arctic Council.

Arctic issues were one of Finland’s key priorities during our EU Council Presidency, which has just come to an end. The Foreign Affairs Council decided in December to propose that the EU update its Arctic Communication from 2016. We have also discussed this with the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. In these discussions, the President of the Commission recognised the importance of the Arctic and the growing interest in the region. She is committed to updating the EU’s Arctic policy.

We have also raised Arctic issues with the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, who emphasised the geopolitical role of the Union and the growing importance of the Arctic for the EU.

Strengthening Arctic cooperation is enshrined in our Government Programme. Earlier this morning, State Secretary Mikko Koskinen spoke about the Arctic issues addressed in the Government Programme and the importance of drawing up an Arctic policy strategy.

I hope you have had a fruitful day working with Arctic issues and I look forward to seeing the results of the solutions workshops. I am also pleased to see that the results of the stakeholder event held in Rovaniemi have already been used directly in preparing the strategy.

I would also like to say that we are not alone in drafting our Arctic strategy: Norway, Sweden and Denmark are also renewing their Arctic strategies at the same time. It is important to maintain close contacts to ensure that the key messages of our strategies are compatible with one another. This is important, for example, due to questions of security policy.

I would like to once again express my gratitude for your active participation.

Thank you.