Finland’s five-party, female-led government has made headlines worldwide since Prime Minister Sanna Marin took office in December, but on Monday the leaders met to thrash out how they might hit a target that pre-dated Marin’s term as premier: making the country’s economy carbon-neutral by 2035.
It’s one of the most ambitious climate goals in the world, but the government has faced criticism for a lack of concrete measures to meet it.
On Monday, at a seminar in eastern Helsinki, the five women at the head of the government agreed a few first steps.
The headline news as covered in all the main papers was the establishment of a climate fund to assist the development of technologies that might assist in the transition.
Last autumn our All Points North podcast looked at Finland's climate policy and asked if the government was doing enough to meet its lofty goals. You can listen to the show via this embedded player, Yle Areena, Spotify, iTunes or your normal pod player using the RSS feed.
Money for that fund will amount to hundreds of millions of euros over the course of the government’s four-year term, and the cash will come from Vake, a ‘state-owned investment and development company’ established by the previous Juha Sipilä government to invest in Finland’s infrastructure.
Other measures include a reduction of the electricity tax to the EU-mandated minimum for industry, in an effort to encourage sectors like steel to move away from coal and fossil fuels, and sector-specific emissions targets across the economy.
The peat industry, however, remained untouched. After much wrangling over the carbon-intensive resource extraction, the government decided it would establish a working group on peat.
That is seen as a victory for the Centre Party, which is close to rural landowners, but possibly not for the environment. A BBC crew touched on the complicated issue in a film published before Christmas, which showed the role Finnish municipalities play in exploiting the carbon-heavy resource.
NCP ponders Finns Party co-operation
Finland’s political scene got a bit of a jolt on Saturday when Iltalehti published a poll suggesting that 82 percent of conservative National Coalition Party (NCP) officials and politicians surveyed would consider forming a government with the Finns Party.
Wille Rydman, a Helsinki MP from the NCP, said in an interview with Helsingin Sanomat that the party should not have refused to work with immigration hardliner Jussi Halla-aho when he assumed leadership of the Finns Party.
That decision prompted a government collapse, a split in the Finns Party and a rump of that party’s MP’s propping up a new administration led by Sipilä.
It also allowed the Finns Party under Halla-aho to go back to opposition and recover lost support, leading to a situation where the party is now leading the polls.
So what should the centre-right do? Rydman reckons that if the government had continued as before, the NCP might have won the last election.
He also stated that the party should use its time in opposition to repair relations with the Finns Party, perhaps in preparation for a new government.
If the polls remain as they are and are replicated at the next election, the Finns Party would be tasked with forming a government and their likeliest partner would be the NCP.
That situation has prompted much public debate on the topic among NCP movers and shakers.
NCP leader Petteri Orpo has defended the decision to refuse Halla-aho a spot in government, other MPs have kept their options open, while Helsinki mayor Jan Vapaavuori stated in a blog post that the two parties were too far apart on human rights, climate change and the EU to consider co-operation.
Helsingin Sanomat examines the issue on Tuesday, plotting where the parties lie on different issues based on MPs' answers to election computer questions.
The two parties are apparently closest to each other in their opposition to pensioners’ wealth being used to finance old age care, in the view that the benefit system is too extensive for the economy to sustain, and that parliament should approve a new nuclear power plant.
They were furthest apart on the EU, on Nato and on whether or not multiculturalism had benefited Finland.
Wooden clothes on the way
Ilta-Sanomat features a visit to a lab producing material from birch trees that they hope will be the ' cotton of the future’.
The Ioncell technology has already been used for the dress worn by First Lady Jenni Haukio at the Independence Day ball, but IS reports it is edging closer to full-scale production.
In a few months they’re hoping to step up the pace, producing 500 tonnes of the stuff a year and moving closer to a mass-market solution.
Nicholas Von Meyer, who heads the Metsä Spring firm that owns half the operation, says that he can see 50,000 tonnes of birch pulp a year going into textile production.
That would correspond to a total many times greater than Finland’s current t-shirt imports, suggesting that in future we may all end up wearing wood.