Dear friends,

Many thanks for the opportunity to open the Feminist Climate Conference webinar. It is a pleasure to join you today to discuss how the feminist movement can and already has influenced climate policy.

This topic is very relevant at the moment here in Finland. Our government is led, for the first time, by an all-female panel. All five party leaders of our coalition government are women. Also for the first time ever, we have a government programme that can be described as a sustainable development programme. 

This spring we have all been facing the unknown. The spread of the Coronavirus has changed the ways we work, travel and meet our families and friends. However, it has not changed all things. Coronavirus has not solved two of the biggest problems of humankind: climate change and nature loss. On the contrary, it has shown us that we must solve these problems or our lives will become more and more uncertain.

Climate science is clear: we have until mid-century to reach global carbon neutrality, if we want to avoid the most disastrous impacts of climate change. And we need to do this in a way that leaves no one behind. We need the active participation of all people and sectors of society to succeed.

Climate change has different impacts on people depending for example on their gender, occupation, social status and wealth. It also impacts countries and regions in different ways. In many countries women and girls are particularly vulnerable to climate change. On a global scale, their livelihoods often depend on sectors where its impacts are felt more acutely, such as agriculture, forestry, and water. But women are far from being victims. We are powerful agents of change.

In Finland, women have a strong role in policy making, and also in shaping and driving our ambitious climate policies. Our government is led by the world’s youngest female Prime Minister, Ms. Sanna Marin. Twelve out of nineteen ministers in our government are women. As the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, I lead the ministerial working group on climate and energy policy. Five out of six Finnish chief climate negotiators since 1992, including our current negotiator, are women.

So what does our climate policy look like? Finland aims to be climate neutral already by 2035. Our government adopted this ambitious goal based on scientific analyses by our national climate expert panel.

To achieve this goal we will accelerate emissions reduction measures and strengthen our carbon sinks at the same time. In concrete numbers, climate neutrality in 2035 means that

  • we need to cut our greenhouse gas emissions by 35 million tons compared to current levels. This is three times the total transport sector emissions in Finland.
  • and we must enhance our carbon sinks by at least 3 million tons. This corresponds to almost half of our agriculture emissions.

We have a lot of work ahead of us. This is why we must make sure that after the Coronavirus crisis we build back better and greener. In doing so, we must look simultaneously near and far. We must not lose sight of the persisting climate and ecological crisis. Our recovery measures need to be climate sustainable and inclusive.

To give a concrete example – I have tasked a working group to propose climate and biodiversity friendly recovery measures in response to the Coronavirus crisis. This group will also identify actions to speed up transition to a carbon-neutral circular economy as well as EU level actions in line with the European Green Deal.

I have been more than happy to see that leaders around the world, including UN Secretary General and President of the European Comission, have called for green recovery. Coronavirus, climate change and nature loss all global threats and we all face them together. That’s why we must also solve them together.  

Dear friends,

In general, Finland has a good track-record in gender equality. The Global Gender Gap Report 2020 ranks Finland as 3rd in the world. Finland is a country where women usually work full-time and have equal access to education and healthcare.

Women are active in political life. If we look back in history, Finland was the first country in the world to extend the right to vote and stand for elections to all women and men in 1906. Finland was also the first country to elect women to the Parliament: 19 female MPs were elected to the 200-seat Parliament in 1907.

Women and men are also equally represented in the Finnish labour market. This is due to affordable, good-quality childcare, measures to combine work and family life, and a policy to distribute family leaves more evenly between parents. Discrimination based on gender is prohibited by law.

Finnish children study in mixed classrooms for at least 9 years and receive free meals at school. The level of education of women is higher than that of men. However, it’s not all just happy-happy-joy-joy for us either. We have serious work to do for example with violence against girls and women and the gender pay gap. Currently, a woman’s Euro in Finland is around 84 cents. This is unacceptable. There is also a lack of women in top corporate positions, although the situation has been improving.

When it comes to international climate negotiations, Finland as part of the European Union has actively supported the development and implementation of the Gender Action Plan. We are strongly committed to promoting a gender perspective in climate policies both at home and internationally. We also aim to increase women’s engagement and gender equality in international negotiations.

Full and equal participation of people of all genders in climate negotiations and in the design of climate actions is critical. The delegations of the EU and its Member States in climate talks have consistently nearly reached gender parity at all levels. Currently two out of three EU lead negotiators are women. The EU also actively contributes to the promotion of gender equality and gender mainstreaming.

We find it particularly important to increase gender-responsive implementation of climate policy and action. That means that when planning climate policies gender and other social impacts should be assessed. This can help countries to raise their climate ambition, which is something we know we must do to keep our planet habitable.

At the EU level, the Governance Regulation is the first EU climate and energy legislation that mentions gender. The regulation has been an important step forward in the implementation of the EU’s current 2030 objectives and a significant step for further integration of gender and climate change policy at the European level.

It upholds the principle that most energy policies have a differential impact on men and women and therefore calls on Member States to “integrate the dimensions of human rights and gender equality in their — national energy and climate plans –”. However, the draft National Energy and Climate Plans, published at the end of 2018 show that there is room to better integrate the gender dimension in national climate and energy policy in many Member States.

Dear friends,

Green political movement has a long history of combining questions of climate change and gender equality. We have developed ways to address climate crisis while taking care of the people, giving everybody voice and opportunity. I believe this is one of the reasons, why Green parties in many countries are getting more support now.

Gender equality is not a goal that states or international organizations could reach on their own. Just as with the climate change, we need the big structures, but we also need the tireless work of non-governmental organizations. In different phases of my political career, I have found the support of other women and women’s organizations valuable. For example, the support of Green Women’s Association of Finland – one of the co-organizers of this webinar has offered me important support during and between elections.

Gender equality has not been given to us, it has been built together. And it must also be defended together. We all, as citizens, friends, parents, colleagues and bosses, supporting one another, can do it.

Hope you have an interesting and fruitful webinar and get a lot of new ideas to take with you!


Find out more about the Feminist Climate Conference here!