Direct to content

The President of the Republic of Finland: Presidential Forum

The President of the Republic of Finland
Speeches, 11/10/2009

Opening remarks by President Tarja Halonen at the 12th Presidential Forum on 10 November 2009

Climate change is a timely and extremely important topic. The Copenhagen Climate Conference is only a few weeks away.

Climate change, mitigating it and adapting to the inevitable effects of global warming are among the biggest challenges facing humanity. The issue is sustainable development. By working together we can influence matters in Finland and internationally. This requires the will and the ability to cooperate.

Climate change is not just an environmental problem. It will affect the lives of billions of people and have considerable economic, social and political repercussions. It is also a security issue.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has reported that the rise in the global average temperature should be limited to no more than 2 degrees to avoid serious risks. The European Union has also set the objective of limiting the rise in average temperature to 2 degrees. In order to meet this objective, the industrialized countries would have to cut emissions by 80-95 per cent, according to the IPCC.

Last week in Barcelona, negotiations were held on a post-Kyoto agreement. We have heard news and evaluations of what was achieved at this meeting, and since it was the last official negotiating session before the Copenhagen summit next month, it is a good idea to discuss what results can be expected in Copenhagen. Here with us today is Principal Negotiator Sirkka Haunia from the Ministry of the Environment.

Did last week's meeting find solutions to the most important questions regarding the emission objectives for the developed countries, the developing countries' measures to mitigate climate change and financing?

High expectations have been set for the Copenhagen summit. In my opinion this is as it should be. Climate change is a global problem that we can only address by working together. The industrialized countries bear the main responsibility for most of the global warming that has taken place up to now, but we also need the developing countries' input to curb it. The only way to mitigate climate change is through comprehensive and effective measures.

The good news is that we already have strong will: researchers, the business community, environmentalists and a broad spectrum of civil society including policy-makers are convinced that change is necessary. In the past few years, business and industry have become strongly involved.

Climate change is not just about challenges, but also about new opportunities. As the saying goes, the early bird catches the worm, and this also applies to the application and commercial development of environmental technology. I believe that this aspect will also be emphasized in Copenhagen.

Climate change will particularly affect areas where people are already in the weakest and most vulnerable position.

Global warming will increase poverty and inequality. In this sense it is truly an unfair phenomenon. The United National Development Programme believes that climate change threatens to stop development or even turn it around. Last week the Secretary-General of the UN warned that the problem of environmental refugees is increasing pressure on the Copenhagen summit.

Climate change will have the most drastic effects on the poor people of the world, the majority of whom are women. Women in the developing countries are not only victims, but are important actors when it comes to mitigating climate change. Women's role in agriculture and in food and water supply is key in developing countries. They must be given a visible role in negotiating a global climate change agreement.

What are Finland's objectives and measures to mitigate climate change?

Parliament is presently considering the Government's Foresight Report on Long-term Climate and Energy Policy. This report sets the objective of cutting Finland's emissions by at least 80 per cent compared with the level in 1990 by 2050 as part of international cooperation.

How and at what cost can this objective be achieved and how should costs be shared? Mitigating climate change has a price, but evaluations indicate that this will be lower than the cost of not taking immediate measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly.

Finland's objective is not exceptionally high: some of the other Nordic countries, for example, have more ambitious targets. Achieving objectives requires joint measures, many of which involve everyday life. It is important to share costs fairly, both domestically and internationally.

The Copenhagen Climate Conference will be a new start. The important thing is that awareness has reached a new level. We cannot ignore the problem.

Negotiations should achieve good results and a broad commitment to implement them effectively. It may not be possible to achieve a legally binding agreement in December. In any case it is vital for work to continue with determination and on a broad front.

Yesterday I attended a celebration marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Many speakers noted that, twenty years ago, something happened in Berlin that experts and politicians would never have thought possible. The people took matters into their own hands. You represent the people here in many different ways. Twenty years from now, 2009 could be a similar year of change, if we want.

Esteemed participants, the floor is open and I look forward to a lively exchange of opinions.

Print this page
Bookmark and Share
This document

Updated 11/11/2009

© 2012 Office of the President of the Republic of Finland Mariankatu 2, FI-00170 Helsinki, tel: +358 9 661 133, Fax +358 9 638 247
   About this site   webmaster[at]