The dedication and climate actions of the younger generation predict a brighter future, says President Niinistö
President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö and LUT University students discussed combating climate change. President Niinistö highlighted technological possibilities, concrete examples of climate actions and the dedication of the younger generation as key factors in building a better future.
"This discussion is a positive signal: concerns about the future are not insurmountable. I hope you will come up with solutions that are beyond my imagination."
This is how President Niinistö summed up his discussion with LUT University students. The online discussion on Monday 26 April took over an hour and was one of three on President Niinistö's Kultaranta university tour.
Students were able to ask the President questions through a video connection and chat. The questions dealt with the significance of consumer choices, great power politics, meat production, population growth and energy production in climate solutions.
President Niinistö started the event by sharing an inspiring thought by Professor Eero Paloheimo about human responsibilities—our responsibilities to the generations to come.
"The most essential of these responsibilities is finding solutions to climate questions," Niinistö stated.
President Niinistö also spoke about the role of great world powers in climate issues. "Great powers such as China, Russia, the US and India are naturally key players in climate questions. There are currently great tensions in geopolitical relations, but when climate questions are on the table, the tone of the discussion shifts. This raises hopes that great powers could reach a wider consensus as well."
Enjoyable ways to fight climate change exist
Students asked President Niinistö about an individual's possibilities to influence climate change, and he listed examples such as purchasing services instead of products, reducing food waste, and transportation.
"When you purchase something, you should always ask yourself whether you truly need it. I would also like to challenge the idea that good choices always mean giving something up. Enjoyable ways to fight climate change exist. I, for instance, feel good when I manage to reduce food waste," Niinistö replied.
Many students related concerns about energy production. President Niinistö mentioned that wind power has turned out to be a competitive part of the permanent solution to climate change. Niinistö said that he had in the early 2000s described nuclear power as a bridge to a low-emission future, but it alone is not enough.
"When Germany decided to start phasing out nuclear power, it began mining for brown coal," Niinistö pointed out with concern. The President was reluctant to address the restriction of peat production and its ripple effects because they constitute an area that rather falls under the competence of certain Finnish ministries.
Students also asked about challenges related to the meat industry; for example, whether Finland could be climate neutral without intervening in livestock production.
"In my opinion, all elements should be addressed," Niinistö replied.
President Niinistö also argued that food production is closely tied to global population growth.
"If global population growth continues in its current staggering direction and people achieve a reasonable standard of living, which would be fair, it would result in an enormous burden that would need to be managed. Population growth is a sensitive and ethically-charged question that has been dealt with in developing countries by improving girls' and women's access to education."
Does tiny Finland play a role in global development?
Students wanted to hear President Niinistö's views on Finland's possibilities to make a global impact. The questions referred to cleaner energy production and the export of related know-how as well as ambitious climate goals.
President Niinistö mentioned climate actions where Finland could set an example. In his opinion, afforestation projects planned in the Sahara and the prevention of black carbon pollution in the Arctic are concrete actions and therefore better than simple statistical figures.
"If we announce that we have achieved certain figures, it may not say much to the regular listener. But if describe the concrete actions that we can take, the example may be stronger.
"We cannot start bossing everyone around, but we can offer pertinent information to one sector at a time," President Niinistö said.
The President also compared the export of environmental know-how to other areas of export: "We need to be competitive in all areas of export. The better we are, the better our expertise will be received around the world."
President Niinistö highlighted Finland's role in international cooperation. Finland has made initiatives related to Arctic climate issues and the international Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action.
"Over 50 finance ministers from around the world collaborated in drawing up the so-called Helsinki Principles. Finance ministers have their finger on the pulse of many issues, and the objective of this collaboration is that combating climate change should always be incorporated into budgets and investment plans."
Throughout the discussion, President Niinistö kept referring to the notion of taking joy in good choices and setting an example to others.
"We can influence others with our drive and determination. You have a great deal of expertise in technology, and all innovation—especially by young people—is influential."
The thoughts expressed by the high-power guest resonated with the students.
"I want to save the world and make people happy; that's why I wanted to become an engineer," a technology student concluded after his question to President Niinistö.
The discussion was moderated by the LUT University Student Union's Anniina Pokki, Chair of the Board, and Arttu Kaukinen, Executive Director.
Link to a recording of the discussion: presidentti.fi/kultaranta/