We are living the critical decade of action, yet urgency does not seem to be at the heart of daily politics. Empty promises, opportunistic tinkering and half-deliberate misunderstandings, based on narrow-minded populism, are a real concern. Without a shared vision, we will not have a collective green transition. In the middle of a complex climate crisis, we need fair transition policies based on scientific understanding. We need to broadly motivate different sectors of society and people living their lives under different circumstances.
In Finland, we have positive experiences from multidisciplinary and independent scientific advisory councils, such as the Finnish Climate Change Panel, the Finnish Nature Panel and the Expert Panel for Sustainable Development, in supporting societal dialogue. Scientific councils, which bring together the most up-to-date understanding of different disciplines, are important assets in supporting decision-makers’ policy planning and evaluation. The councils act as watchdogs for policy measures and prevent decision-making and public debate from ignoring environmental considerations.
Connecting environmental actors is a key priority
Multidisciplinarity is also the driving force of the current sustainability conference. Bringing researchers and societal actors from different fields together to sit at the same table is essential for creating influential relationships and comprehensive policy programs. We apply the same principle of systemic interconnectedness at the Tiina and Antti Herlin Foundation, where our advocacy work is currently focused on rapidly cutting carbon emissions in an overarchingly sustainable way. Of the five target areas of our environmental program we published last fall, this year’s focus is on supporting the demand for carbon-neutral steel, as steel production currently accounts for approximately 10% of global carbon emissions.
The need for speedy but carefully considered measures is undeniable. Humanity is hurtling downhill on the highway of multiple crises, where dodging one obstacle is not enough, and one too short-sighted solution easily produces another new problem to solve. Climate change cannot be combated by compromising biodiversity, and emission compensation cannot replace emission reductions. A carbon-neutral society is the right goal, but no more than a brief check point on the way to what is needed in the long term. We must avoid technological path dependencies, which in time would make it difficult to continue towards a carbon-negative society.
Climate change is causing fundamental changes to fossil-based production and lifestyles. Questions on the sustainable levels of material consumption cannot be solved piece by piece. The message proclaimed by science about the environmental crisis is unusually strong and unequivocal: there is no time for going back and forth on who, when and how to do what is needed.
However, there is hope, and even better, there are steps we can take. The most significant challenge to tackle is how to connect existing sub-solutions into scalable outcomes. In order to vanquish environmental problems and related social crises, it is of the utmost importance that political opportunism and misguided shouting matches do not steal the spotlight. The right people need to find each other to continue to push for our common goals, and it needs to happen in this critical decade of action.
The job is not yet done, there is important work for all of us to do.
This blog was written by Tiina and Antti Herlin’s foundation, which is one of the supporters of the EEAC Network’s 30th anniversary conference. The conference is being organised by Finland’s three independent scientific panels, the Finnish Expert Panel for Sustainable Development, the Finnish Climate Panel and the Finnish Nature Panel. The conference will be held in Helsinki on September 14-15 September 2022, and it will bring together Finnish and European experts to consider accelerating the sustainability transformation. More information about the conference available on the conference website.