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Thursday's papers: Carbon-absorbing forests, educational inequality and war games

Finland’s forests could mitigate climate change by removing CO2 from the atmosphere, a widening academic achievement gap, and is Finland inching closer to NATO?

Lapsi piirtää.
Image: Mirva Ekman / Yle

Finland could become carbon neutral by conserving and restoring forests, a group of environmental researchers at the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), told national daily Helsingin Sanomat in a report outlining climate saving measures. Their call is a reaction to a new alarm sounded by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, for the world to curb global warming at 1.5 degrees, rather than 2 degrees Celsius.

Achieving this goal by 2050 would mean bringing greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere down to zero. This could be achieved by balancing the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere with the amount that is being removed. Finland's forests store enormous quantities of carbon and could effectively offset Finland’s main polluters, including the energy and agricultural sectors.

On Tuesday, Finland's economic affairs minister said government's flagship programme to promote biofuels use is sustainable, despite IPCC statements to the contrary.

"Finland’s equitable school system a joke"

"Most teachers wouldn't enrol their own kids at my school," said Elina Tuomi, a primary school teacher in an eastern Helsinki suburb whose controversial blog post was picked up by Helsingin Sanomat.

”Finland brags about Pisa results while the gap between the strongest and weakest schools continues to widen,” she said.

Tuomi said many of the pupils at her 600-student school in Kontula do not receive the support they need. The student body at her school speaks a total of 46 different languages, but many do not possess the Finnish language skills needed to progress up the educational ladder.

Preteens at her school are showing signs of social marginalisation, she said, while teachers at schools such as hers are overburdened by growing classroom sizes and challenges brought on by teaching an increasingly heterogeneous student body. The law guaranteeing educational equity is being broken, but no one seems to care, Tuomi said, while the current centre-right government’s 900-million-euro funding slash to education is already hurting schools.

Finland joins NATO's biggest military exercise since Cold War

Left Alliance chair Li Andersson has criticised Finland’s participation in a Nato-led military exercise scheduled for later this month in Norway. She told Swedish-language daily Hufvudstadsbladet that her party also opposes a similar maneuver to be staged in Finland in three years. She told the paper that the exercise which involves NATO members, plus partners Finland and Sweden, lowers the threshold for Finland joining the military alliance while sending mixed messages about the country's foreign policy.

The exercise will bring together more than 40,000 troops and equipment from 30 countries.

The Finnish government has been seen as cosying up to the military alliance, much to the consternation of neighbouring Russia, which has become increasingly uneasy with what it sees as NATO’s encroachment on its natural sphere of influence.

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