Senior Adviser Karolina Rasi represented Finnish Industries at Kirkenes Conference organised by Norway’s Barents Secretariat and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Key topics of the high-level conference included High North development, business- and border cooperation and energy sources of the future. High level speakers included the Foreign Affairs ministers of Norway, Finland and Sweden and prominent list of industry and stakeholder participants.
The Barents Sea bordering Kirkenes looked peaceful and calming. In any other circumstances it would have transmitted a calming feeling. This time around, nothing could calm the Kirkenes Conference participants enough as the news of Russia invading Ukraine reached everyone.
On the high-level conference agenda was various aspects of the High North development, business- and border cooperation and energy sources of the future.
One of the discussed topics was the EU’s legally binding target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and the accompanying climate and energy plans enabling us to reach EU’s climate goal. Finland has lifted the bar even higher and aims to be carbon-neutral by 2035. Industry sectors in Finland have been front-runners in planning sector by sector carbon neutrality roadmaps.
To reach the set climate goal, the European Commission proposed a so-called FitFor55 Climate legislation package including legislative proposals covering energy efficiency, renewable energy, and revision of EU’s Emission Trading Scheme among others. The goal of the package is in every different way to contribute to the emission reductions.
In addition to this, the European Commission issued a so-called Taxonomy Regulation in July 2020 defining what is green investment and what is not and aiming to channel more capital into sustainable businesses. Based on the taxonomy classification, the future investments should support climate change mitigation, transition to a circular economy, and prevent pollution.
Recently there has been a lot of discussion and plans to ensure EU’s so called strategic autonomy. This was triggered partly by the covid crisis revealing challenges in the global supply-chains. In addition to the urgently needed climate mitigation and green transition, we were suddenly faced with other kind of threats, such as a global pandemic and recently the totally unthinkable war in Europe.
The existing energy mix in Europe today varies from one Member State to another. Some parts of Europe are still heavily dependent on outside-EU energy-imports and based on high carbon-emitting coal, for example. To facilitate the transition to carbon-free future and become more self-reliant, we need to quickly move to other energy sources.
Despite being publicly criticised, nuclear power is an important part of the European and Finnish energy mix as currently around 50% or Europe’s emissions-free electricity production is generated by nuclear power.
In Finland and many other countries, a part of the electricity we use is imported to us from neighbouring countries. So, there is an obvious need to increase domestic production. To combat climate change new energy production must be carbon neutral. Together with nuclear power other important domestic renewable energy sources are planned and built such as wind, hydropower, biomass, biogas and solar power.