Niinistö to address UN Climate Summit, government urges industry to commit to 2035 carbon target

As a climate summit begins in New York, Finland's economic affairs minister says industry must join the climate battle.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres (left) with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö. Image: YK / Lehtikuva

On Monday Finnish President Sauli Niinistö is to speak at the Climate Action Summit in New York, hosted by UN Secretary-General António Guterres. According to a statement "the summit aims to boost ambition and accelerate actions to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change".

Guterres has stressed that the event must generate realistic plans rather than simply well-meaning speeches. Leaders of 60 countries will address the conference. Those noticeably absent will include the leaders of the US, Australia and Brazil.

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Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organisation Image: Nina Svahn

Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), helped to screen the participants.

"Only countries with concrete proposals in their pockets will be allowed to speak at the conference. I led the Scientific Working Group that evaluated the measures and selected the best ones," Taalas told Yle in New York.

Taalas has led the UN organisation since 2016 after as serving as Director General of the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) beginning in 2002. On Monday the WMO predicted that the global average temperature will rise to at least 1.2-1.3 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels over the next five years.

Kulmuni: Industry has biggest potential to reduce emissions

In Helsinki, the Finnish government on Monday called on industry to commit to its ambitious carbon emissions goal. the cabinet, which took office just over three months ago, says it wants Finland to be carbon neutral by the year 2035. In other words, the country is to stop contributing to the carbon in the atmosphere within just over a decade and a half.

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Minister of Economic Affairs Katri Kulmuni Image: Pekka Tynell / Yle

Minister of Economic Affairs Katri Kulmuni said heavy industry must join the effort whole-heartedly.

"It is absolutely crucial that our industries and business community join this path because of course the biggest potential to reduce emissions is on the industrial side. Naturally we also need emissions reductions in transport, agriculture and construction," she said at a seminar in Helsinki on Monday.

At the event, leaders of the tech, chemical, forest products and energy industries launched a 'roadmap for a low-carbon future'.

"Industry has joined this effort in a very positive way because they see the export potential of it as well. If Finland succeeds in being the first to make the shift away from fossil fuels on the industrial scale, that would of course be of tremendous interest around the world," Kulmuni said.

Tech industries hail "ambitious timetable"

So can Finnish industries commit to the political target of a carbon-neutral Finland by 2035?

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Marjo Miettinen, chair of Technology Industries of Finland Image: Laura Railamaa / Yle

Marjo Miettinen, chair of the Technology Industries of Finland federation, said the timetable is ambitious.

"It is more realistic for some companies than for others. But strategies are generally made for ambitious goals and I think that's good. Now it's easier for us to begin to grapple with this within companies, since there is a deadline."

In the same breath, Miettinen warned of the risks of climate policy decisions.

"We shouldn't make overly large decisions without understanding where they may lead. If some forms of business come to a halt because of this, then that naturally has a big impact on all of society," she said.

Besides her chairing the tech industry association, Miettinen is also board chair of the electricity solutions company Ensto. As she sees it, the business opportunities linked to combating climate change are nearly unlimited.

"Now it's mostly a question of evaluating the opportunities and deciding what part of the world to try to conquer and which which range of products. There certainly are opportunities."