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Opening speech of Mikko Kosonen from Sitra in the World Circular Economy Forum 2019

Mikko Kosonen, the President of Sitra, held the opening speech in the World Circular Economy Forum on 3 June 2019 in Finlandia hall.



President Minnikhanov of Tatarstan, Ministers Tiilikainen and Lintilä, Comissioner Vella, your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra. I am honoured and delighted to welcome you to the World Circular Economy Forum 2019.

Let me start by thanking our key partners: The Government of Finland, the European Investment Bank and Nordic Innovation for their indispensable contribution and support. I would also like to thank our forum partners: Climate-KIC, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the European Commission, the European Environment Agency, Helsinki Metropolitan Smart & Clean Foundation, UN Environment, and the World Bank, for your important support.

I am delighted that our theme, circular economy, has brought together 2000 change makers from all over the world  to Helsinki— and many more online. It tells a lot of the importance of our topic. It is wonderful to see a global community coming together to share experiences and solutions for a better future.

And yes, ladies & genteleman -> Solutions and firm actions are desperately needed, because time is running out.


We are facing severe global challenges and experiencing the disastrous effects of climate change and biodiversity loss.

Just in the past year we saw intense heat waves and raging wildfires in Europe, USA and Japan cause billions of euros, dollars and yen in damages. The Tropical Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi and the Super typhoon Mangkhut hit the Philippines killing over a thousand people combined and devastating the lives of tens of millions more.

We are also witnessing extreme loss of life in natural environments. In 2019 more than 27 000 species are threatened with extinction.  27 000 species.

At this rate, in a human lifespan we may altogether lose the underwater wonders such as coral reefs, destroying entire ecosystems and livelihoods of local communities.

These drastic consequences are set to only worsen, if our global challenges are addressed inadequately.

But we shouldn’t fall into despair. Even though not yet quite enough, progress IS being made.

We are seeing nations, businesses and individuals around the world taking action and demanding change to a paradigm of overconsumption of natural resources.


Finland has been implementing its national Circular Economy road map for the past three years, the global furniture business IKEA has committed to using only renewable and recycled materials by 2030 and individuals like Janez Potocnik, Ellen MacArthur, Paul Polman as well as prominent political figures and business leaders have given a human voice for the circular economy.

Our activities to develop economies around the world have historically caused emissions, but this take-make-waste paradigm has come to an end. Luckily all around the world we are seeing circular business models unlocking new value for businesses of all shapes and sizes with significantly smaller environmental footprints.

But, we need to make sure that our transition to circular economy is fair and inclusive. People who may lose their jobs based on the old linear economy must be given the opportunity to gain new skills and find new means of living. Therefore, education at all levels is key.


The circular economy transition must also include a shift in taxation. We should tax things we want less of – such as waste and emissions – and tax less things we actually want, such as work. This will also help distribute global wealth more evenly.

I am pleased to inform you that the new government of Finland has adopted elements of sustainable development tax reform, of which some of the principles were proposed by Sitra.  The new and ambitious government programme published today, is Paris-agreement proof targeting to carbon-neutrality by 2035. The programme also raises the circular economy into the very core of Finland’s competitiveness agenda.

Public investments by themselves will not be enough for this massive task and  therefore we need to channel more private investments for the move to a circular economy and to reach the Sustainable Development goals globally. This is estimated to require some four trillion euros of investments in total by 2030.


The governance models and structures of our societies have to also be enhanced to support the transition to circular economy better. We need new more systematic approaches and better collaboration to address cross-cutting society-wide transitions such as circular economy.

Ladies and gentleman,

We have built an extensive programme for you for the next three days, – covering all the key issues: a fair transition, investments and governance.

I want to challenge all of us here today and online to take this opportunity to share ideas, learn from each other and take action to ensure our governments, businesses and communities are doing everything in their power to transition towards a circular economy.


We have approximately 10 years to dramatically switch the direction of our global economy to prevent an ecological catastrophe.

If we act now we can still create a future in which people can find meaningful work to support their families, enjoy the beauty and health benefits of a clean environment and have equal opportunities to access products and services for a good life.

I wish us all a productive and fruitful World Circular Economy Forum 2019.

Thank you very much indeed.

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