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Thursday's papers: Greener consumers, pension hike critique, EU environment ministers meet

Thursday's papers found that people are changing their habits for the climate, others are concerned about pension plans and European ministers chat in Helsinki.

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Could a circular economy help save the planet? Image: AOP

Residents in Finland are increasingly making their buying decisions based on climate concerns, according to a new survey commissioned by the Finnish Innovation Fund (Sitra).

The survey was conducted by Kantar TNS as a follow-up to Sitra's previous climate questionnaire from 2017. In a small uptick, a majority of the study's more than 2,000 respondents said they believed that more sustainable living, like regularly eating vegetarian or vegan fare, could help to curb the effects of climate change, wrote Helsingin Sanomat.

More than half also said they were extremely worried about the rapidly changing climate.

The survey is part of Sitra's Sustainable Everyday Life programme, which monitors the impact of individual consumption on the state of the global climate. Project leader Markus Terho said that sustainable lifestyles are catching on.

"Two and a half years ago lots of people were complaining about not being allowed to do anything fun anymore; that thinking has already changed," Terho said in HS.

The Sitra survey found that public opinion on sustainable everyday actions of all kinds has risen since the last round of responses. Organic foods, greener electricity and ecologically conscientious holiday planning have all become more common over the past two years, the survey found.

Pension raise good start but "not enough"

Fresh Minister of Social Affairs and Health Aino-Kaisa Pekonen's announcement that the national pension will be increased by 31 euros mohtly has met with criticism from the Finnish Pensioners' Federation, according to business newspaper Taloussanomat.

Federation director Anssi Kemppi said that the raise is a good thing, but little more than a bandage on the previous government's cutting and freezing of the pension index.

"If the index had stayed the same, a full pension would now be some tens of euros higher than now, is really due to the previous cuts," Kemppi said. "The hole left a few years ago has only just been fixed. It isn't enough."

The Finnish Pensioners' Federation has called for the index to be unfrozen and all cuts to be rescinded, according to the paper.

The government programme devised by Prime Minister Antti Rinne's five-party coalition had allocated 183 million euros per year for the purpose of raising minimum pension levels. The increase will bring the monthly pension payment up to about 1,000 euros per month.

According to the government's calculations, approximately 609,000 minimum-level pensioners will receive the increases to their pension.

Circular economy on table at unofficial climate talks

Returning to climate issues, Finland will host a gathering of European environment ministers in Helsinki on Thursday and Friday in order to gauge the level of commitment to lowering emissions among member states.

Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Krista Mikkonen, was quoted by Aamulehti saying she wants the EU to act fast.

"I expect us all to be on the same page about the direction we are taking. We must discuss the EU's message at the UN Climate Change Summit in September, and make the EU a climate trendsetter [for the world]."

Mikkonen said the ministers would not be focusing on taxation for air travel or plastic goods, but on understanding and developing the circular economy model, which emphasises minimizing waste and making the most of resources.

Borrowing, sharing and renting need to replace ownership as the basis for consumerism, Mikkonen said.

The minister's consultant Taina Nikula told AL that a circular economy is full of potential.

"Only nine percent of production materials are recycled. Tens of billions of tonnes of materials are being wasted. We could cut industry emissions by 50 percent by the year 2050 using the circular economy."

Nikula also said new business models would have to be employed to account for a possible rise in the prices of goods and services.

Finland's main goal during its EU presidency, which began in early July, is for the Union to commit to climate neutrality by the year 2050.

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