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Speech by Prime Minister Juha Sipilä at the UArctic Congress 2018

Government Communications Department
Publication date 4.9.2018 15.15

CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY Your Serene Highness, Dear friends, It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to Oulu - a city of business, innovations and academic achievements. The UArctic Congress 2018 is an integral part of Finland´s Arctic Council Chairmanship programme. The city of Oulu is well known for its hospitality, and the University of Oulu, the host of today’s Congress, maintains an impressive network with other institutions of higher learning.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today the Arctic - and Arctic cooperation - is globally more important than ever. Climate change is a fact. Its effects have severe impact to the Arctic as well. This summer has shown that we need to be better prepared for extreme weather conditions, long dry periods and even widespread forest fires in our northern latitudes.

The need to implement the goals of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change is an imperative.  Urgent measures are needed. More work needs to be done to lower carbon dioxide emissions. In this regard, energy production is in a key role. Also the scientific community is essential in providing facts and reliable information about measures we need to take.

One of the acute concerns in the Arctic is black carbon. Black carbon speeds up the melting of ice and snow. The good news is that the ways and means to reduce the black carbon emissions already exist. Finland believes that reductions in black carbon emissions belong to issues that an Arctic Summit should discuss.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

For indigenous and other local people, the Arctic is their home and a place where to pursue long-held traditions and culture. In my view, proper educational opportunities in remote areas such as in the Arctic are vital for creating sustainable development and building resilience in communities.

Education is one of the priorities of the Finnish Chairmanship programme of the Arctic Council. During our Chairmanship, Finland has formed an international network of education specialists for Arctic cooperation. The University of the Arctic (UArctic) is naturally the most important actor in this context.

Digitalisation creates new opportunities to cooperate more closely, also in the Arctic. Digitalisation is especially useful when creating smart cities and improving health services in sparsely populated areas. Moreover, meteorological observations, satellite services and research will help us be better prepared for weather-related events and provide information for climate science.

Our fields of expertise in digitalisation, artificial intelligence, connectivity and 5G technology are all part of Finland’s success story. We can also open up new opportunities for promoting sustainable development in the Arctic by harnessing digitalization, artificial intelligence and for example space technologies.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

For the Arctic, the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development goals are highly relevant. We face global challenges that have major impact to the Arctic region. But we also see new economic opportunities in the Arctic that must be tapped into in a sustainable way.

These ambitions for sustainable development require new ways to produce and consume. A transition to circular economy brings solutions. For instance, efficient recycling of materials saves natural resources and creates new jobs. There are some great examples of new solutions in circular economy here in the North Ostrobothnia region too.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Implementing the 2030 Agenda in a coherent, integrated and participatory way is a priority for Finland.

My government adopted a National Implementation Plan for the 2030 Agenda in February 2017. The Government decided to focus its work on crosscutting themes and challenges that need urgent implementation. The two main themes for Finland are: 1) carbon-neutrality and resource-wisdom, and 2) non-discrimination, equality and competence. These cover all seventeen Sustainable Development Goals in an integrated way.

In addition, the Government included the promotion of sustainable development in its Annual Report to the Parliament. Principles and objectives of sustainable development are also to be included in future Government Programmes.  

Finland has also integrated Agenda2030 considerations into state budgeting, and particular focus is being put on carbon-neutrality and resource-wisdom. This is a very important step in mainstreaming sustainable development into all sectoral policies. We have also launched an external independent evaluation to assess how well we have implemented the 2030 Agenda nationally.

Finland has a long tradition in engaging the civil society and other stakeholders in sustainable development work. The key mechanism we use is the National Commission for Sustainable Development, which has now operated continuously for 25 years.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In September 2016, we updated our National Arctic Strategy. Our aim is to boost the region’s vitality by means of sustainable development. Finland’s Arctic policy also gives a central role to promoting the interests of indigenous peoples.

I would also underline the importance of the European Union as a global frontrunner in sustainability and climate policies. We spoke about this with President Macron last week. The EU must take leadership also in combating climate change.

Dear Friends,

I wish to congratulate the University of the Arctic for convening this important Congress and wish all participants a pleasant stay and useful discussions here in Oulu and in Helsinki.