Statement by the President of the Republic of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, at the UN Climate Action Summit New York, 23 September 2019

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Secretary-General, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I want to thank you, Mr. Secretary-General, for your leadership in convening us here today. The scientific case for the urgency of climate action is beyond any doubt. The demands from the young generation are loud and clear. Listening to their voice at the very start of this Summit was essential. If we fail, their future is at stake.

A global shift to carbon neutrality means a comprehensive transformation of our societies. Halfway measures are not enough. We have to align all our policies with effective climate action.

Just before this Summit, I received a message from Lord Nicholas Stern: “Ambition depends on finance and finance follows ambition.” Finland and Chile are pursuing this idea with the Coalition of Finance Ministers we co-chair. The Helsinki Principles of this coalition are driving the systemic change we need.

Climate action requires all the tools controlled by finance ministries. Taxation and budgeting, public investment and procurement – when these instruments work in our favor, a carbon-neutral world is possible.

This cross-regional initiative is not about speeches on vague objectives. The Helsinki Principles are about mobilizing concrete action. The Coalition already has 40 committed members. We welcome others to join in.

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Finland’s national climate targets now belong to the most ambitious ones in the world. Our government is committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2035. We aim to become carbon negative soon after that, as the first industrial economy.

The bar has been set very high. We want to lead by example. For that, setting targets is not sufficient. Achieving them is what matters.

The task is demanding. We need to accelerate our emission reductions. And we need to strengthen our carbon sinks. But we also know that the technologies and innovations needed for this already exist.

Moreover, we have a solid record on delivering on our earlier commitments. In 2015, Finland was among the first countries to adopt a Climate Act. We have banned the use of coal in energy production by 2029. The use of fossil oil in heating will end by 2030.

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To conclude, let me assure you that we in Finland are fully committed to decisive climate action. Globally, in coalitions with others, and nationally.

The challenge is enormous. But so is the reward. A sustainable future for the next generations. It is our responsibility to provide that.