We are embarking on an unprecedented and rapid structural transformation towards a carbon-neutral society; the next 15 years will be crucial in terms of global economic growth and climate performance. Finland is well placed to succeed and become a winner on the far side of this transformation, but we should not take anything for granted based on what we have seen so far.
This summarises the main messages of Jeremy Oppenheim, a global opinion leader on climate issues. Oppenheim delivered the keynote speech at the Better Growth, Better Climate event organised on Tuesday 3 March by Sitra, the Climate Leadership Council, the Confederation of Finnish Industries and the Ministry of the Environment of Finland. Oppenheim is the Programme Leader for the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, best known for climate-related reports drawn up by Nicholas Stern, among others.
“Finland has excellent technology companies and a high ranking in assessments of the potential and conditions for developing cleantech innovations. The risks lie in your poor performance in country comparisons on the introduction of new solutions,” says Oppenheim.
Oppenheim points to examples of Finland’s strengths including the opportunities presented by renewable energy, green buildings and Finland’s fast-growing cleantech sector as a whole.
Oppenheim says that we should follow pioneering countries such as Sweden, Germany and Denmark, which are performing well in various indices and exploiting climate change opportunities comprehensively at government, company and city level. According to Oppenheim, the integrated approach taken by these countries would provide a small country such as Finland with a strong competitive advantage.
“It is great that climate policy and tackling climate issues are high on Finland’s agenda. However, with your expertise it would be possible to create an even bigger carbon handprint than ‘just’ a reduction in Finland’s emissions,” says Oppenheim.
A recently published report by the Global Commission, “Better Growth, Better Economy – The New Climate Economy Report”, paints a clear picture of the economic opportunities related to climate change, while demonstrating that climate change mitigation and economic growth go hand in hand – contrary to what has been generally believed until now.
According to the report, a key role is played by urban development, land use productivity and energy system transformations. Investments in infrastructure in these three key areas will amount to approximately 90 trillion US dollars worldwide. Based on the report’s estimates, this could be a great – if not the greatest – business opportunity in the world.
Finnish companies have already recognised the potential represented by climate change and its mitigation: based on a new survey commissioned by Sitra from market research company Taloustutkimus, most Finnish companies (75%) find that carbon neutrality is, or will be, an important strategic driver for their competitiveness. This is a particularly strongly held view in the energy and environmental sectors and the forest and paper industry. The metal industry is the sector that is least concerned about climate change. Furthermore, 83% of Finnish companies said that climate change is significant to their business environment.
“Climate change and the business opportunities it presents are already an integral part of the business strategies of leading Finnish companies, and their role is sure to grow in the future. It is hard to imagine that companies will succeed in international competition in the future without taking some account of the effects of climate change,” says Director Mari Pantsar of Sitra.
Another sign of Finnish companies’ increased awareness of the importance of climate change is the expansion of the Climate Leadership Council with new, big-hitting members such as Finnair, Nordea, Ilmarinen, Vaisala, Lappeenranta University of Technology, VVO and Porvoon Energia. The Council aims to boost the overall competitiveness of Finland’s business sector and research organisations, helping them prepare for the threats posed by climate change and dwindling natural resources, while priming them to benefit from the related business opportunities.
“The member companies of the Climate Leadership Council (CLC) are setting an example for other Finnish businesses on how taking account of climate change can be turned into a competitive advantage. Smaller companies can follow this path and adopt the best practices co-developed by leading companies and Sitra,” says Mari Pantsar.
2015 will be a particularly important year with respect to international climate negotiations.
“The upcoming months will be crucial to reaching a climate agreement. The goal of the international climate conference in Paris, to be held in November and December 2015, will be to conclude a legally binding and universal climate agreement. Now is the time to make this agreement a reality,” says Finland’s Minister of the Environment Sanni Grahn-Laasonen.
According to the minister, an ever-growing number of companies have begun the transition towards carbon neutrality and have understood the implications of carbon risk for their business environments. It is also an opportunity for companies to increase their efficiency, reduce costs and generate creative solutions.
“Cleantech presents an opportunity to combine ambitious emission reduction targets with sustainable growth. The pioneers of today will become future winners, offering clean solutions to others. It is vitally important that Finnish companies play an active role as pioneers of cleantech,” says Grahn-Laasonen.
Further information on CLC:
Jouni Keronen, Executive Director, CLC: +358 50 453488
The Climate Leadership Council, a coalition founded by major Finnish firms in 2014, aims to boost the competitiveness of Finland’s business sector and research organisations, helping them prepare for the threats posed by climate change and dwindling natural resources, while priming them to benefit from the related business opportunities. The CLC members include Fortum, Caverion, Gasum, Kemira, Kone, Neste Oil, Nokia, Outotec, St1, Sitra, Finnair, Nordea, Ilmarinen, Vaisala, Lappeenranta University of Technology, VVO and Porvoon Energia.