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9. Nevsky International Ecological Conference 28.5.2021


Presidentti Tarja Halonen osallistui 9. Nevsky International Ecological -konferenssin pääistuntoon 28.5. etänä.

President Tarja Halonen participated in the 9th Nevsky International Ecological Conference on May 28th, 2021 through videochat from her office in Helsinki. 


Your Excellencies, President of the Russian Federation, Prime Minister, Chair of the Federation Council, Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you for the invitation to speak today.


Past year has been challenging on many levels. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to torment our world and no country has been spared of its dire consequences. Those most vulnerable have again suffered the most.


At the same time, the global awareness of the inter-dependence of this world has grown significantly. Nobody can solve this pandemic alone – we need to work together. This same goes to all of the environmental problems and issues we discussed yesterday and today. Climate change and biodiversity loss are global problems that do not respect state borders. Climate or Covid, no one is safe until everyone is safe.


The Agenda 2030 for Sustainable development and the seventeen goals are key to solving many of today’s challenges. The adoption of the Sustainable Development Agenda in 2015 was a remarkable moment. All nations came together at the United Nations to agree on a new holistic framework, which for the first time tied together the environmental, economic and social sustainability.


The beauty of the Sustainable Development Agenda is that it addresses the complex reality and the interrelated global problems in one framework. At the same time, this can be a challenge. We have now agreed that all of these issues are interconnected and cannot be dealt separately.


The Paris Agreement was a big leap towards implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Climate change and biodiversity loss are some of the biggest challenges of our lifetime and with Paris Agreement practically all countries committed to cutting their carbon emissions. Now that we are in agreement of our common goals, we need growing numbers of concrete actions. The growing global population brings its own set of challenges and makes just and sustainable development even more important – everyone has a right to well-being and safety. It also means that we have the biggest potential to solve these issues, together.


Cooperation, particular multilateral cooperation are the key words for tackling global problems, climate change, biodiversity loss or pandemics. We will require commitment from all stakeholders: the international community, regional organizations, every country and every decision-maker, cities, researchers and the whole science community.


While climate change and biodiversity loss are indeed global problems, many of the solutions are also found locally. That is why it is particularly important that civil society and all people are heard and included in planning, decision-making and implementation of policies. The regional approach that this Congress has adopted is important. Many important steps are taken at a regional level. Arctic cooperation and cooperation in Baltic Sea matters are excellent examples of regional cooperation.


In terms if climate change, Arctic is critical. The Arctic has warmed at three times the global average rate since 1971 and consequences of this will be felt globally. Arctic warming is accelerated by some of the feedback loops associated with climate change. These include the decreasing area of radiation reflecting snow and increasing area of heat absorbing ocean and methane releasing from melting permafrost. Black carbon is of concern particularly in the Arctic. When black carbon falls on snow and ice, it decreases this reflective surface and accelerates the melting and consequently intensifies the effects of global warming.


Arctic Council member States have committed to fight against climate change and have succeeded in reducing their black carbon emissions by 20 % and are on track to achieve 32% decrease by 2025.This is a good example of the power of regional collaboration. Here I want to congratulate Russian Federation for taking on the chairmanship of the Arctic Council for the next two years. I trust that you will continue on the ambitious climate and environment agenda!


For development to be sustainable, it must take into account all people. Too often, structural inequalities continue to hinder women’s advancement in the society. This is a huge barrier to development and has a negative impact on societies as a whole. When gender equality is not achieved, everybody suffers.


It is utmost important to ensure that women are equally participating in decision-making at all levels. Women are a half of the world’s population. Involving women is itself a matter of justice and equality but it also benefits the whole society. Studies show that equal involvement of women and men in decision-making results in better and more inclusive decisions and increases their effectiveness. Losing women’s participation means lost potential. The challenges we are facing cannot be efficiently tackled without everyone on board. Women’s participation is fundamental to democratic governance.


This pandemic has indeed shown us that we continue to face serious challenges that might undermine the progress we have achieved. We have to ensure that the solutions to COVID-19 will support the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris climate agreement.


I am happy to bring few examples from Finland. As you may know, our Government has committed to work towards climate neutrality by 2035. About 75% of Finland’s emissions come from energy production and consumption. Reaching climate neutrality will require strengthening our carbon sinks and reducing emissions in all sectors, including working towards nearly emissions-free electricity and heat production, as well as reducing the carbon footprint of construction, promoting a circular economy, and a climate-friendly food policy.


Finland was the first country in the world to create a national roadmap to a circular economy. This was done under the leadership of the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, of which I am also a Board Member of. A circular economy provides solutions to the biggest challenges the world is facing: over-consumption of natural resources. It also has potential to create new economic opportunities and decent jobs while supporting environmental and climate objectives. For example, the United Nations Environment Program has estimated that the material value loss from non-recycled fibers globally is more than 100 billion dollars. This clearly shows the potential that we have not harvested properly yet. And, there is even more potential in other industries, such as electronics and construction, where a lot of the materials are not recycled. This Circular Economy Plan can be adopted in other countries, too. Instructions for this exist and I warmly recommend to take a look.


To conclude, the effects of this pandemic could stop the progress achieved in reaching the sustainable development goals by 2030. We cannot afford this. Now we have a possibility to build back better and greener and ensure that future is more equal and socially just for everyone. Let’s not lose this opportunity. Thank you!