Masterclass on the climate crisis brought decision-makers together to discuss ambitious climate action

President Sauli Niinistö emphasised that cooperation in climate action is a great opportunity for Finland. The concept of the carbon handprint of companies, that is, the climate benefits created by their products and services, has great potential to reduce emissions as well as place Finland as the pioneer of climate action.

Tiina and Antti Herlin Foundation, together with Climate Leadership Coalition, organised a Masterclass on the climate crisis for Finnish decision-makers at the Space for Science and Hope on 1 February 2023. This one-off event for invited participants brought together distinguished politicians, company managers and environmental scientists. One of the main goals of the event was to find cross-party climate solutions that could also support Finland’s success in the long term.

The event was opened by President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö. He pointed out that the country’s decision-makers have a responsibility to ensure that future generations will have good living conditions. The key to tackling the climate crisis is working together across different sectors of the society. “In Finland, we have a strong tradition of sticking together when the going gets tough, and it would be good if this continued,” said Niinistö.

Smooth cooperation between the business sector, the political sector and the scientific community also puts Finland in a good position to succeed and become a pioneer. “There is a great deal of discussion about carbon footprint, but we should also talk about Finland’s carbon handprint, that is, what we can do to help others act in a sustainable manner.”

Strong international message from sustainability scientist Johan Rockström and the U.S. Envoy for Climate John Kerry

The scientific community was primarily represented by Prof. Dr. Johan Rockström, the Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). He is best known for his groundbreaking planetary boundaries framework.

“Out of nine planetary boundaries, we have now crossed six. We now understand that we are much closer to the critical tipping points for natural systems, such as the ice cap and the rainforests, than we have previously thought,” Rockström said.

Professor Johan Rockström summed up the current understanding of environmental scientists of the climate crisis in his keynote speech.

Safeguarding biodiversity is essential for solving the climate crisis, as the tipping points of the planetary boundaries are interconnected.

“We will not achieve the climate targets of the Paris Agreement just by cutting down on fossil fuels. It is absolutely essential that we also protect the natural carbon sinks both on land and in the oceans.”

This message resonated with the participants, who viewed the industrial shift towards low-carbon solutions as a promising development. “This is a remarkable opportunity to the Finnish business sector. The green transition has created a global market that is growing faster than the market for traditional solutions,” said Pekka Ala-Pietilä, Chair of the Boards of Huhtamäki and Sanoma, who led the working group discussion at the event.

These statements received international support from the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, who participated in the event from Washington. “It is up to the decision-makers to change the fate of the planet. All analyses show that putting in the effort to tackle the climate crisis is also the most economically sound alternative,” Kerry said.

“Those prepared for change will win in the future”

The masterclass on the climate crisis included group discussions where participants were able to have constructive discussions in an atmosphere of trust. The overarching theme of the discussions was reconciling the message of climate science to the national political solutions concerning the climate and the business sector which can support Finland’s position as a pioneer.

The event was organised by the Chair of the Board of the TAH Foundation, Antti Herlin. He reiterated the message of the distinguished participants. 

“Right now, it seems that the green transition is perhaps the most promising path to economic development, which can create a large number of jobs in Finland, generating tax revenue and well-being. Those prepared for change will win in the future,” Herlin concluded.

Photos: Joel Haapamäki