Finland’s Prime Minister Speaks Out in New York

The Finnish Prime Minister, Ms. Sana Marin, gave an interesting lecture to a packed audience at the Columbia University on “Climate Sustainable Welfare Society: Is it the Model of the Future?”

The speech set out how Finland, like the other Nordic countries, are taking important steps to fight climate change while ensuring that general welfare is maintained properly.

It was plainly obvious that the audience was interested in comparing their government’s policies to those of the Finnish government. The differences are quite stark when a well-educated leader presents what most Nordics regard as common sense policies. Finland like the other Nordics, is certainly not an easy place to live – you play by the book, you study, you work, you pay your taxes that support the basic services – healthcare, education and public networks. It is nothing fancy, but it works reasonably well and provides a reasonably high standard of living for most people.

A link to her original speech is given here – it is rather long, but the following summarises the main points:

Her starting point was: “Climate science tells us we need to become climate neutral by mid-century for the humanity survive. In the remaining 30 years we have left to become climate neutral, we have to do much more than what we have done so far.”

She stated that climate change is not a matter of political opinion – it is a scientific fact, and political decisions are needed to make change happen. We need to implement the Paris Climate Agreement, and we need political choices to make sure that the climate actions are done in a socially just way.

She then went on to describe, Finland:

  • A country of only 5,5 million residents, beautiful nature and skilled people.
  • Located in the northern part of Europe.
  • Our western neighbour is Sweden and eastern neighbour is Russia.
  • Finland has a coalition government with 5 political parties and each party is led by a woman of whom 4 are under 35 years old.
  • When Finland became independent a hundred years ago, it was one of the poorest countries in Europe.
  • Today Finland tops many of the world’s country comparisons, whether for press freedom, for the happiness of citizens.
  • We have built our modern society and open economy based on the Nordic welfare model that adapts to changes.
  • The key to our success is our good quality education system where tuition is free from day-care in the early childhood all the way to universities.
  • We invest in R&D and we are one of the leading countries when it comes to innovations.
  • The most important aspect of our education system is that it provides everyone with equal opportunities irrespective of the circumstances you are born allowing every child can aspire to any chosen ambition.

The government invests in day-care, in education, in research and in lifelong learning.

She emphasised the way that Finnish governments make decisions. Finns are accustomed to coalition governments where different political parties cooperate. A big part of her job as PM is to try to find compromises and build consensus between the different parties in the government. They even co-operate with the opposition parties on many issues. This produces continuity in the decision-making processes and is how Finland transformed itself from a poor country to a stable and rather wealthy society.

Continuity in politics is also necessary to tackle climate change everyone needs to be onboard to reach climate goals. The Finnish makes adapting to change easier.

Photo: Laura Kotila, valtioneuvoston kanslia

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