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Published July 1, 2019

Rinne: The time for “yes, but” climate policies is over

Finland’s Prime Minister Antti Rinne wants to see the European Union take the lead in solving the most pressing challenges facing humanity – the gravest of which is climate change.
Writer
Author's profile page: Tuuli Hietaniemi
Specialist, Climate Solutions, Sitra
Tuuli Hietaniemi is a specialist at Sitra responsible for producing information to support an ambitious climate and energy policy.

This Monday, Finland assumed the presidency of the Council of the European Union. Last week, the government published its programme for the presidency, which defines Finland’s priorities during its six-month tenure. In addition to ensuring that the EU will play a leading role in the battle against climate change, the programme’s priorities include a competitive and socially inclusive EU and comprehensively protecting the security of EU citizens.

Despite increasing demand in Finland and in Europe for climate solutions to speed up climate action, the presidency programme pays little attention to the fact that combating the climate crisis requires rapid action. Bringing the EU’s emission-reduction target for 2030 in line with the 1.5-degree goal will be at the core of acting as a global climate leader. The EU’s current target of at least 40 per cent is hopelessly outdated.

In his speech at the plenary session of the Parliament of Finland, Prime Minister Antti Rinne stressed that when it comes to the fight against climate change, the time for “yes, but” policies is over. To solve the climate crisis, the EU will need to act in a unified and ambitious manner.

To solve the climate crisis, the EU will need to act in a unified and ambitious manner.

Finland’s EU presidency comes at a critical time when the parties to the Paris Agreement – including the European Union – are expected to update their emission reduction commitments for 2030. Current commitments will not be able to contain the climate crisis. In addition, by 2020, all countries will need to submit a long-term emission-reduction strategy for 2050 to the UN. The European Commission has proposed that the EU should aim for carbon neutrality by 2050.

The majority of EU member states support the Commission’s initiative for a carbon-neutral Europe by 2050. However, at last week’s meeting of the European Council, the EU’s progressive majority was hamstrung by a group of holdouts when Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Estonia voiced their opposition to this objective. The next opportunity for consensus-building will be during Finland’s EU presidency.

It is commendable that Finland’s programme calls for the EU to raise its profile as a global leader in the battle against climate change as well as for the creation of a long-term climate strategy for a carbon-neutral EU by 2050. The programme also highlights the fundamental role that the circular economy will play in these efforts.

For the next six months, Finland will have a unique opportunity to promote the well-being of current and future generations by pushing the EU’s ambitious climate policies forward. For example, a high-level climate summit – which is also included in the Finnish Government’s official programme – is a great example of the type of forward-oriented thinking that will help emphasise the climate crisis in the EU’s agenda.

By January 2020, we will be able to ask Finland whether it did everything in its power to help contain the climate crisis during its EU presidency term.

Will the answer be “yes” or “yes, but”?

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