Prime Minister Antti Rinne's speech at the #ESDNconference in Helsinki 31th october
Key challenges and actions for achieving sustainable development goals
Dear advocates of a sustainable future,
ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me to be here at the annual conference of the European Sustainable Development Network. The ESDN is an important forum for exchanging views and developing our common understanding of sustainability challenges and solutions across Europe.
Finland has been an active member of the ESDN since the very start, in 2002, and we will continue our active engagement in the future, too. We are very happy and proud to organise this year’s conference, and we hope and believe that it will give you plenty of fresh ideas and energy to return home with.
Yesterday you had a chance to experience Finnish culture, food and music! I do hope you enjoyed the evening and have had a chance to see something of Helsinki so far.
The title of this conference, ‘Towards a Sustainable Europe 2030 – From Reflection to Action’, could not be more relevant and timely. The year 2030 is only ten years away.
Building a sustainable future is also the key aim of the Finnish Government. This aim – as set out in our Government Programme – is to transform Finland into a socially, economically and ecologically sustainable society by 2030.
In this speech, I would like to address the key sustainability challenges that exist both in Finland and in the EU. But before that, it is important to highlight the issue of interlinkages, cross-benefits and trade-offs in sustainability policies.
As you know, key sustainability challenges are cross-sectoral and call for a holistic approach. This has been clearly stated in the Global Sustainable Development Report. Cross-sectoral challenges need cross-sectoral solutions.
With this in mind, our Government Programme is organised around seven themes that address the key challenges of Finnish society. These themes include ‘Carbon neutral Finland that protects biodiversity’, ‘Safe and secure Finland built on the rule of law’ and ‘Fair, inclusive and equal Finland’. The themes reach across different policy branches.
To support comprehensive implementation, we have established six cross-sectoral ministerial working groups that consist of five to seven ministers. These working groups focus on issues that specifically call for inter-ministerial cooperation.
Our Government Programme also addresses the issue of a sustainable economy. We are to carry out a tax reform aimed at sustainable development. This will consist of reforms to energy taxation and transport taxation.
At the same time, we are promoting a circular economy and exploring emissions-based consumption taxation. We will also continue developing our sustainable development budgeting model.
In a Nordic welfare state, the economy is managed for the people, not the other way around. This is at the centre of my Government’s programme.
Finland currently holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and in this role we are focusing on promoting sustainable development through EU policies.
We are doing this throughout our six-month Presidency, and we plan to continue this focus beyond that, too.
Sustainable development is about securing human wellbeing within planetary boundaries. This needs to apply both at the national and EU level. Our national policies need to be as ambitious – or even more ambitious – than our EU policies. In this respect, Finland wants to be a country that leads by example.
Let me point out a few things we need to focus on at European level, in our striving for a sustainable Europe. I will also give you some examples of how we approach these issues at national level.
Climate change and loss of biodiversity are the key challenges of our time. They threaten our global wellbeing. As the effects of climate change become more visible, we urgently need to step up our action to manage this threat.
The EU must lead the way, by transforming its own economy and society to achieve climate neutrality.
As the European Council stated in June, the success of the European green transition will depend on significant mobilisation of private and public investments, building an effective circular economy, and a properly functioning European energy market.
In Finland, the Government has set an ambitious target of making Finland carbon neutral by 2035. This calls for many tough decisions in the years to come.
We need to make our electricity and heat production nearly emissions-free. We need to strengthen our carbon sinks and stocks and we need to reduce the carbon footprint of construction and housing, just to give a few examples.
We are also stepping up our efforts in biodiversity protection by increasing the total amount of funding for nature conservation. We will also expand our national parks network.
Agriculture and food systems have strong linkages to biodiversity and climate, and we will take agricultural policy measures to strengthen biodiversity.
The change towards a carbon neutral future entails short-term costs and challenges. It needs to be done in a way that is fair to all groups in society. We need a socially fair transition that leaves no one behind.
At the European level, we need to invest in skills and education and do more to foster entrepreneurship and innovation. We also need to make sure that EU funding facilitates a socially just transition.
The European Pillar of Social Rights is an important element in building an inclusive Europe. We also need to do more to ensure equality between women and men, as well as rights and equal opportunities for all.
In Finland, the cornerstones of the Nordic welfare model are non-discrimination and equality, and services in health, wellbeing and education. We also value high social mobility and an active civil society.
We need to take good care of this heritage. For my Government, important priorities are the restructuring of health and social services, and a reform of social security.
It is also important to actually measure our progress towards a sustainable future. My Government has decided that in addition to conventional economic indicators, it will use indicators that describe economic, ecological and social wellbeing.
We underline the importance of evidence-based decision-making, at the EU level too. We also need to better understand the impacts of our actions and policies outside Europe.
Finnish NGOs are very active in this and have just organised a two-day conference on the measurement of wellbeing.
On our common journey towards a carbon neutral society, we need continuous dialogue between all stakeholders. With this in mind, the Finnish Government has decided to establish a Round Table on Climate Policy.
It will function in close cooperation with the National Commission on Sustainable Development. It will bring together different stakeholders to find common ground for a fair transition to carbon neutrality.
To close, I would like to emphasise the importance of our common European values and the significance of trust.
These common values are the foundation of Europe’s freedom, security and prosperity. The rule of law, with its crucial role in all our democracies, is a key guarantee that these values are implemented and upheld.
Finland considers it essential that this is fully respected by all Member States and the EU.
Trust is a key element in building a sustainable future. We need to trust in each other in order to make long-lasting and far-reaching decisions. We need to trust that everyone is on board, and that no one is left behind.
While the Government has the primary responsibility for implementing the 2030 Agenda, no Government can do it alone. We need civil society, the private sector and academia. We need cities, regions and individuals. We need the energy and determination of our young people, and we need the experience of elders. We truly need everyone.
We need to trust in a sustainable future, because without this trust it will not materialise. This trust is created through networks like this one, the European Sustainable Development Network. Right here and right now.
You have a key role in your countries in promoting the transition that is needed. I wish you all good luck and every success in your important work towards building a sustainable Europe.