Where are we? - Story of Finland

7.5.2018 Outi Honkatukia
Finland's chief negotiator Outi Honkatukia and Anirban Ghosh, from the Mahindra Group, representing the corporations of the world, getting ready for the Talanoa dialogue in Bonn on 6th May.

Bula vinaka. Happy to be here to share stories and to listen. My name is Outi, I am the chief negotiator and UNFCCC focal point for Finland. Elina covered the EU climate action, including how we have decoupled emissions from economic growth. So now I can focus on a personal story on where we are.

I am from Helsinki, but as a child, my family lived close to the Arctic Circle in northern Finland. I loved winters because there was nothing better than playing in snow. Days in winter are short – the sun barely comes above the horizon around 11 am and sets around 2 pm. But it doesn’t feel so dark when there is a lot of snow because that reflects light.

But this is now changing. Our winters are becoming unpredictable. In the Arctic region temperature is rising at least twice as fast as the global average. So there the global 1.5 degree increase means over 3 degrees. This means that we see and feel the impacts already now – they are social, environmental, economic and cultural.

The Sami are the only indigenous people in Europe. They live in Finland, Sweden, Norway and Russia. Their traditional livelihoods are reindeer herding, fishing, handicrafts, hunting and gathering. The Sami have their own culture, language and traditions.

Traditional Sami reindeer herding means that the reindeer are in the forest and find they food in the forest. They migrate between different grazing lands seasonally, which makes it sustainable for the nature. Sami languages are spoken and used with traditional livelihoods, and with a one or two words in the Sami language you can for example describe how old the reindeer is and its color etc.

For me the impacts of climate change means that there may be less snow to play with and the winters are unpredictable. But for our indigenous people it is a whole different story. They are very vulnerable because of their close connection between traditional livelihoods and nature. Because the snow conditions are changing –snow when it melts and freezes several times becomes hard as rock – and it becomes very difficult for the reindeer to find food in the forests under the snow. The reindeers get thinner, they have fewer little ones and the reindeer herds become smaller. This has a direct impact on the livelihoods of our indigenous people.

Finland has legislation stating that by 2050 our emissions will be reduced by at least 80 %. At the same time, we need to strengthen the resilience of Arctic communities. The IPCC 1.5 degree report will be very important for providing the scientific underpinning for our work here. I very much look forward to having an in-depth discussion on the IPCC report in this process in due course.

Thank you.

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