President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö’s Kultaranta university tour continued on Monday, 26 April with a discussion with LUT University students on climate change. On this occasion, through video connections and chat, the President exchanged thoughts with nearly 400 students.
At the start of the event, President Niinistö highlighted Lord Nicholas Stern as an example of an individual who has succeeded in influencing the thinking of many about climate change. In his 2006 Stern Review, the renowned economics expert and advisor shifted his focus from economics to environmental and climate protection and climate change.
“This human conformity to law, at least to my mind, was confirmed, when a person who you are accustomed to listening suddenly jumps into another field, and is still listened to. And I’m quite sure that in economic circles, he also attracted rather a lot of the same type of extensive attention,” said President Niinistö.
Climate change unites
President Niinistö told the students that the great powers have a key role to play in combating climate change. In this regard, according to the President, an interesting phenomenon in recent times has been that climate change brings countries together – regardless of power politics thinking. For example, in connection with US President Joe Biden’s climate conference, the tone of the debate changed, despite strained US-China relations.
“President Xi, President Putin and many, many heads of state are present virtually. And we no longer hear a word of power politics quarreling or harsh statements; the whole group are focused on combating climate change.”
Indeed, President Niinistö asked whether climate change opens up the possibility that more can be done generally in a spirit of common understanding. “I fully understand that many people, perhaps, will be of the opinion that, climate change and combating it are just a pawn in the game of power politics. I’m not going to say now if that’s the case or not, but if that is the case, then moving that pawn in a good direction is still in everyone’s interests,” he added.
As one forum that could bring the great powers closer together, President Niinistö also mentioned the Arctic Council, which will be chaired by Russia after Iceland. According to the President, the idea has taken root in Russia that an Arctic Summit on Climate Change could be set up above the Arctic Council, with the heads of state attending once again.
“If such a summit would be held, it would surely also bring the relationship of these great powers closer together in geopolitics, at least in such a way that dialogue can be maintained. And the topic then, of course, would be climate change and the fight against it.”
Finland’s role in combating climate change?
The President took around a dozen questions from the students in just over an hour. Among others, students representing the university’s various guilds offered pertinent comments and questions on topics ranging from Finland’s opportunities to influence to the recycling of plastic.
According to the President, Finland’s influence arises from clear thinking, and it is of prime importance to focus on ensuring that Finland continues to have the highest quality knowledge. “Tackling black carbon, soot, is precisely the kind of subject we can convince people about, since we know the facts. Another issue is afforestation: this is also concrete and clear. If we show that we can make an impact in these fields, then we’ll be listened to more widely,” said President Niinistö in response, referring to the Sahara afforestation project, which has been proposed by Finland, among others.
In addition, President Niinistö highlighted the Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action of more than 50 countries, which is co-chaired by Finland. “Finance ministers have influence over many issues. Underlying the finance ministers’ Helsinki Principles idea of cooperation in combating climate change was that finance ministers in all activities demand that climate change also be taken into account in budgets and investment plans. If you keep control of the money, there’s further scope for influencing other matters.”
President Niinistö, asked how he sees the world in 30 years’ time, responded that, in addition to reasonable, appropriate economic growth, the fate of climate change and the preservation of biodiversity is in the hands of humankind. “As I have stated, ultimately this a human responsibility, borne by each of us. If I can make a prediction, yes, I believe that a serious awakening is slowly rising – a little late, but even so – that will lead to big changes in behaviour and will set a positive course.”
According to the President, it is important to learn to enjoy the fact that we are doing things in our own surroundings that benefit the environment. “Climate change can be tackled also by means that are quite exciting and agreeable for the individual.”
The event was moderated by Anniina Pokki, Chair of the Board, Student Union of LUT University and Arttu Kaukinen, Executive Director, Student Union of LUT University.
Watch a recording of the event
The President of the Republic of Finland’s Kultaranta university tour is organised jointly with the University of Lapland, the Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology LUT and Aalto University. The tour discussions will pave the way for the Kultaranta Talks, to be held later this year.
The tour began on Wednesday, 21 April at the University of Lapland, where thoughts were exchanged on the intensification of great power politics. The final discussion of the tour will take place at Aalto University on Wednesday, 28 April on the topic “Money is increasing and technology is revolutionising: Will the economic order change?”