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Ministeri Emma Karin puhe talousneuvostossa 1.6.2022

Julkaisuajankohta 1.6.2022 11.02

Ympäristö- ja ilmastoministeri Emma Karin puhe on pidetty talousneuvostossa 1.6.2022, jolloin professori, Sir Partha Dasgupta vieraili Suomessa.

Honourable attendees, Professor, Sir Partha Dasgupta,

First of all I would like to thank Sir Partha Dasgupta for taking the time to join our meeting. Your ground-breaking report has inspired and invigorated efforts to implement new tools for fighting the loss of biodiversity.

Biodiversity loss is happening right in front of our eyes, also in Finland. We are destroying life around us so rapidly that scientists believe the sixth mass extinction event is now under way.

Yet, overconsumption continues and the loss of biodiversity accelerates further. Too often, we continue to prioritize short benefits over the big picture and the well-being of our planet.

It has become more and more obvious that we need new tools for fighting this negative trend.
Your report, Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta, is a remarkable contribution to that.

The report has brought the attention of the world on internalizing nature into decision-making.

The report provides an important framework for connecting the greatest ecological crises of our time to their key drivers: to the over-use of natural resources.

To put it simply, there is no life without nature.

Nature needs a price tag because our economy, our lives and our well-being are completely dependent on it. Biodiversity is declining faster than ever before in human history. This poses extreme risks and uncertainties to the economy and well-being.

The report puts us at the heart of sustainability. We are no longer just looking at how individual ecosystem services should be valued.

We are looking at how to halt the loss of the entire spectrum of natural environment. Attention has shifted to natural resources as an investment.

We have a common responsibility to make sure that future generations will also have an opportunity to enjoy a healthy planet and its natural resources in a sustainable way. 

The report provides a framework for thinking about the link between the economy and biodiversity. Now we need to use this knowledge to provide policy tools to address the whole range of issues related to biodiversity loss.

So, what should we do?

The answer is simple: we should treat natural capital like any other asset. We have a common and indivisible climate, but most natural resources are local.

That’s why I launched a research project in the Ministry of the Environment on how to address the findings and objectives of Professor, Sir Partha Dasgupta’s report especially from Finland's point of view. The project is led by the Finnish Natural Resource Institute and we have a multidisciplinary science panel to support the work. Stakeholder workshops will take place in the autumn and the final report is expected in January 2023.

We have known for a long time that economic activities rely on nature and the services and materials it provides, but we have not been able to determine its economic value well enough. Now we should find suitable indicators to be monitored.

For example, it is quite obvious that the value of forests cannot be calculated just as cubic metres of timber. But, if the value of forest biodiversity can be calculated in euros, this will help us understand the total output of forests. However, we need to remember that money can never reflect all the different values people assign to forests and nature.

Introducing tools such as ecosystem accounting would be a great way to keep track of our natural capital. Ecosystem accounting would give us an opportunity to see how the quantity and quality of our ecosystems and the services they provide change over time.

I expect that the project launched in Finland will provide tools to consider natural values from an economic point of view. We have to ensure that in the future all legislation, regulation and budget decisions in Finland will be in line with the ecological framework.

Biodiversity loss is just as crucial in terms of our survival as the climate crisis. The topics discussed when decisions on emissions trading were made included the monetary value of the right to emit carbon dioxide into the air.

What does recognising the value of nature mean in practice? We do not always see the value that nature’s functions have. One everyday example of this is pollinators that are becoming more and more endangered. 

Food production and our whole life depend on the services they produce. We rarely think that even in Finland the value of the work done by pollinators is measured in tens of millions of euros. Globally, this amount is astronomical.

Yet Parliament does not discuss the value of pollinators in the autumn when the State Budget is approved.

Honeybees and bumblebees need suitable habitats to survive.

But without understanding their value, we cannot understand the opportunity cost. That is, what is the cost of not preserving and creating habitats such as unmown margins along the roads or leaving decaying trees in commercial forests.

Pollinating insects are a good example of how important it is to mainstream the protection of nature.

We need to act now. Measures to protect biodiversity will be the cheaper the faster they are implemented. We need to produce verified information on nature to be able to compare the nature footprint of different investments. Consumers also want and should have the right to get more information about the environmental impact of the products they buy.

All companies should be aware of how their activities affect nature and the risks they pose to ecosystems. On the other hand, companies themselves are nowadays more and more interested in reducing and compensating their businesses’ effects on climate and nature. Therefore, the new Nature Conservation Act of Finland includes a proposal for a new voluntary ecological compensation tool.

In the big picture, we must reform our economic systems so that they will operate within the planetary boundaries. This requires a collective effort. In the global economy, sustainability cannot be achieved by just one country or one sector alone. We must integrate nature-positive economic policies consistently in everything we do as human beings, throughout our societies.

It is important that Finland will have a strong role in global cooperation. We must be active, and proactive, in international organizations. This is even more necessary because the biodiversity footprint of Finnish consumption extends far beyond our national borders.

We must also boost the current push towards a Green Transition. This comes at a crucial moment, and not a moment too soon. In Finland, we have already committed 50 per cent of the European Recovery and Resilience Funds (RRF) towards this goal. On top of this, we have allocated significant national contributions towards the Green Transition: speeding up the fossil-free energy and transport transition but also supporting the means to do so, such as environmental licensing.

Finally, the value of an ecosystem service or a natural resource expressed in euros is an important tool. When you look at biodiversity as an asset, the costs can turn into investments. What may seem expensive can well be worthwhile.

The Green Transition is already showing huge business potential. However, while pushing the Green Transition we always have to make sure that we do it in a controlled way. We must stop both crises, climate change and biodiversity loss, at the same time. It is therefore clear that, in the future, we must plan and prioritize in a completely new way how we use the limited natural resources we have.

As a prosperous, nature-loving country Finland should be at the forefront of halting the loss of biodiversity. Without this, we have no right to expect action from less prosperous countries.

We need a complete systemic change. And, even more importantly, we need a change in our mindset. Nature and economy are intertwined in a crucial manner.

Appreciation of clean and safe nature is something we Finns share across the political parties. We can be world champions in preventing biodiversity loss as well. Professor, Sir Partha Dasgupta’s work provides an extraordinary foundation on which we in Finland can also build our own solutions.

Thank you.