Between ethical considerations and political interests

The debate in Fin­land on cli­mate and ener­gy pol­i­cy drift­ed between eco­nom­ic inter­ests and a wider sense of respon­si­bil­i­ty. On the one hand, the Copen­hagen con­fer­ence was viewed from an eth­i­cal per­spec­tive, main­tain­ing that we have a shared respon­si­bil­i­ty for our plan­et, and, as such, we would need to take all nec­es­sary actions to ensure that a bind­ing glob­al agree­ment was reached. As one com­men­ta­tor put it: “With­out the sac­ri­fices of our pre­de­ces­sors, Fin­land would not exist. It remains to be seen what our great grand­chil­dren will say about us.”11Aamule­hti: Ilmas­to­vas­tu­ullisu­us on mah­dol­lista, 8 March 2010. On the oth­er hand, polit­i­cal con­cerns were raised over Finland’s mon­e­tary con­tri­bu­tions towards cli­mate change pre­ven­tion schemes and both Finland’s and the EU’s polit­i­cal inter­ests in the nego­ti­a­tions. In a par­lia­men­tary meet­ing pri­or to the con­fer­ence, True Finns Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment (MP) Pirkko Ruo­ho­nen-Lern­er point­ed out: “Although we nego­ti­ate as part of the EU del­e­ga­tion, we must ensure that Finland’s del­e­ga­tion has nation­al inter­est as its core pri­or­i­ty.”22Helsin­gin Sanomat: Ilmas­ton­muu­tok­sen lasku köy­hille huolestut­ti eduskun­taa, 3 Decem­ber 2009.

The Social Democ­rats high­light­ed that those low­er on the income lad­der in Fin­land should con­tribute less than high earn­ers. Envi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Lehtomä­ki respond­ed with an eth­i­cal approach: “I am a lit­tle sad­dened that Finland’s cli­mate bill is fac­ing crit­i­cism of this mag­ni­tude. What is essen­tial here is whether our gen­er­a­tion pays the bill or whether we pass it on to our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren with huge inter­est.” Then Prime Min­is­ter Van­hanen fur­ther point­ed out that domes­tic bur­den shar­ing was not among the main con­cerns in prepa­ra­tion for Copen­hagen. Nation­al Coali­tion MP San­na Perk­iö stat­ed that, rather than focus­ing on mon­e­tary issues, Fin­land should cal­cu­late how much the coun­try could ben­e­fit from a cli­mate agree­ment. Such opti­mism was shared among many oth­er MPs – includ­ing gov­ern­ment min­is­ters – with Cen­tre Par­ty MP Kim­mo Tiilikainen offer­ing the most far reach­ing fig­ure of 100,000 new jobs in Fin­land with the “green rev­o­lu­tion”. The Left Alliance, spear­head­ed by MP Paa­vo Arhin­mä­ki, demand­ed a min­i­mum of 40 per­cent car­bon cuts for devel­oped countries.

Fin­land was among the first EU mem­ber states to promise funds to help devel­op­ing coun­tries cope with their cli­mate bur­den, but the fact that part of that mon­ey came from Finland’s devel­op­ment bud­get caused some crit­i­cism in the media.33Helsin­gin Sanomat: EU:n kole­hti: van­haa, uut­ta ja lainat­tua, 12 Decem­ber 2009. Also, the EU’s means of reach­ing its bio fuel tar­gets by 2020 were crit­i­cised for push­ing mil­lions of peo­ple towards star­va­tion in the devel­op­ing world. As Finland’s lead­ing news­pa­per Helsin­gin Sanomat put it in its main edi­to­r­i­al: “The road to hell is paved with good inten­tions.”44Helsin­gin Sanomat: Tie hel­vetti­in on kivet­ty hyvil­lä aiko­muk­sil­la, 28 Feb­ru­ary 2010. When it came to the results of the Copen­hagen con­fer­ence and the EU’s cli­mate change and ener­gy poli­cies, dif­fer­ent views were present in the Finnish pub­lic debate. Nation­al Coali­tion Mem­ber of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment (MEP) Sir­pa Pietikäi­nen assert­ed that, in Copen­hagen, it was the process rather than the out­come that was the most impor­tant thing: “The Copen­hagen con­fer­ence is a mile­stone in a series of sev­er­al nation­al and inter­na­tion­al actions.”55Nykypäivä: Pietikäi­nen: Kööpen­ham­i­nan tulos ei ratkaise kaikkea, 18 Decem­ber 2009. Anoth­er Nation­al Coali­tion MEP Eija-Riit­ta Korho­la high­ly crit­i­cised the EU’s cli­mate pol­i­cy, argu­ing that it was bureau­crat­ic and inef­fi­cient.66Nykypäivä: Korho­la: EU:n uusit­ta­va ilmastopoli­ti­ikkaansa, 12 Feb­ru­ary 2010. In his often crit­i­cal news­pa­per col­umn, Finland’s pre­vi­ous Prime Min­is­ter Paa­vo Lip­po­nen stat­ed that the EU should refrain from prais­ing its self-per­ceived moral supe­ri­or­i­ty in glob­al cli­mate pol­i­tics and focus on reach­ing a glob­al cli­mate strat­e­gy with oth­er sig­nif­i­cant actors, includ­ing the USA, Chi­na, India and Brazil.77Turun Sanomat: EU:n kohtalon het­ket ovat käsil­lä, 5 March 2010. Final­ly, For­eign Min­is­ter Stubb voiced his dis­ap­point­ment over the Copen­hagen con­fer­ence, argu­ing that it result­ed from cer­tain weak­ness­es in the UN sys­tem and the lack of strate­gic coop­er­a­tion between world pow­ers. He remained nev­er­the­less opti­mistic and point­ed out that envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, besides being a moral and eth­i­cal respon­si­bil­i­ty, is also a busi­ness oppor­tu­ni­ty that both Finns and Euro­peans should exploit. What is now need­ed, he argued, is strong EU lead­er­ship, an EU-wide car­bon tax and a 30 per­cent car­bon reduc­tion tar­get.88Kale­va: Ilmastopoli­ti­ik­ka ei pysähtynyt Kööpen­ham­i­naan, 5 May 2010.

Fol­low­ing a gov­ern­ment deci­sion to allow the con­struc­tion of two more nuclear pow­er sta­tions in Fin­land, the post-Copen­hagen debate trans­formed into an argu­ment over nuclear ener­gy. Again, the main bifur­ca­tion in the debate was between eth­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions and polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic inter­ests. Accord­ing to a Euro­barom­e­ter sur­vey con­duct­ed in autumn 2009, a major­i­ty (67 per­cent) of Finns believed that nuclear ener­gy is a way of tack­ling cli­mate change. There were still promi­nent voic­es – main­ly from the Green Par­ty – call­ing for reduc­tions in nuclear ener­gy pro­duc­tion. For exam­ple, Green MEP Satu Has­si stat­ed that “it is in the inter­est of Fin­land to wake up from its nuclear hyp­no­sis and join the green rev­o­lu­tion.”99Helsin­gin Sanomat: Tuulivoima ajaa ydin­voiman ohi, 13 March 2010. The Cen­tre Par­ty news­pa­per Suomen­maa attacked Helsin­gin Sanomat for being a “ser­vant of the nuclear busi­ness” and dis­re­gard­ing the impor­tance of EU coop­er­a­tion.1010Suomen­maa: Pekkarisen min­is­ter­iön arvioi­hin pitää voi­da luot­taa, 21 April 2010. Suomen­maa did how­ev­er acknowl­edge that the EU tar­get for Fin­land – 38 per­cent renew­able ener­gy by 2020 – was a chal­leng­ing one, a sen­ti­ment shared by many com­men­ta­tors, includ­ing anoth­er provin­cial news­pa­per Kale­va: “The tar­get that the EU has set for Fin­land is tough, but there are no oth­er options”.1111Kale­va: Pakos­ta nieltävä ener­giatavoite, 16 April 2010. Indeed, the mood in some cir­cles was that near­ly impos­si­ble tar­gets had been imposed on Fin­land from out­side, but this reac­tion was imme­di­ate­ly chal­lenged from an eco­log­i­cal point of view: It seems that “for Fin­land indus­try is more impor­tant than cli­mate.”1212Helsin­gin Sanomat: Suomelle teol­lisu­us on ilmas­tolu­pauk­sia tärkeämpi, 16 March 2010. The crit­i­cal arti­cle dis­cussed Finland’s hes­i­ta­tion to pledge to make 30 per­cent car­bon cuts, sug­gest­ing that it will neg­a­tive­ly affect Finland’s image as a green and pro­gres­sive EU mem­ber state.

Final­ly, with its rich nat­ur­al resources, Fin­land was envis­aged as the future leader in green pol­i­tics. For exam­ple, Cen­tre Par­ty MP Kyösti Kar­ju­la sug­gest­ed: “Fin­land could become the fore­run­ner in busi­ness-led sus­tain­able bio econ­o­my. That requires bold polit­i­cal choic­es and vision­ary deci­sions.”1313Suomen­maa: Suo­mi EU:n biopoli­ti­ikan edel­läkävi­jäk­si, 16 March 2010. The EU was crit­i­cised for its “green pro­tec­tion­ism” that pre­vents bio fuel indus­try from grow­ing more rapid­ly.1414Helsin­gin Sanomat: EU:n tukipoli­ti­ik­ka vaaran­taa biopolt­toainei­den käytön kasvun, 28 March 2010. Turun Sanomat wished that Fin­land had received more appre­ci­a­tion for its role as a major pro­duc­er of bio ener­gy, but con­clud­ed that ulti­mate­ly what mat­ters is that we all work togeth­er towards the com­mon good.1515Turun Sanomat: Bioen­er­gial­la suuret lupauk­set, 30 March 2010.

    Footnotes

  • 1Aamule­hti: Ilmas­to­vas­tu­ullisu­us on mah­dol­lista, 8 March 2010.
  • 2Helsin­gin Sanomat: Ilmas­ton­muu­tok­sen lasku köy­hille huolestut­ti eduskun­taa, 3 Decem­ber 2009.
  • 3Helsin­gin Sanomat: EU:n kole­hti: van­haa, uut­ta ja lainat­tua, 12 Decem­ber 2009.
  • 4Helsin­gin Sanomat: Tie hel­vetti­in on kivet­ty hyvil­lä aiko­muk­sil­la, 28 Feb­ru­ary 2010.
  • 5Nykypäivä: Pietikäi­nen: Kööpen­ham­i­nan tulos ei ratkaise kaikkea, 18 Decem­ber 2009.
  • 6Nykypäivä: Korho­la: EU:n uusit­ta­va ilmastopoli­ti­ikkaansa, 12 Feb­ru­ary 2010.
  • 7Turun Sanomat: EU:n kohtalon het­ket ovat käsil­lä, 5 March 2010.
  • 8Kale­va: Ilmastopoli­ti­ik­ka ei pysähtynyt Kööpen­ham­i­naan, 5 May 2010.
  • 9Helsin­gin Sanomat: Tuulivoima ajaa ydin­voiman ohi, 13 March 2010.
  • 10Suomen­maa: Pekkarisen min­is­ter­iön arvioi­hin pitää voi­da luot­taa, 21 April 2010.
  • 11Kale­va: Pakos­ta nieltävä ener­giatavoite, 16 April 2010.
  • 12Helsin­gin Sanomat: Suomelle teol­lisu­us on ilmas­tolu­pauk­sia tärkeämpi, 16 March 2010.
  • 13Suomen­maa: Suo­mi EU:n biopoli­ti­ikan edel­läkävi­jäk­si, 16 March 2010.
  • 14Helsin­gin Sanomat: EU:n tukipoli­ti­ik­ka vaaran­taa biopolt­toainei­den käytön kasvun, 28 March 2010.
  • 15Turun Sanomat: Bioen­er­gial­la suuret lupauk­set, 30 March 2010.

The reports focus on a report­ing peri­od from Decem­ber 2009 until May 2010. This sur­vey was con­duct­ed on the basis of a ques­tion­naire that has been elab­o­rat­ed in March and April 2010. Most of the 31 reports were deliv­ered in May 2010.

The EU-27 Watch No. 9 receives sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the Otto Wolff-Foun­da­tion, Cologne, in the frame­work of the ‘Dia­log Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and finan­cial sup­port from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is not respon­si­ble for any use that may be made of the infor­ma­tion con­tained therein.