Twelve strategic recommendations for Nordic leadership on the climate and environment

13.04.18 | News
Tine Sundtoft
Heidi Orava
Working together at Nordic level on the green transition, especially on climate issues, will help the individual countries make wise strategic choices on big issues. “Working together also strengthens the position of the Nordic Region in international forums – both politically and economically,” says Tine Sundtoft, the former Norwegian Minister of Climate and the Environment, who has presented a report containing 12 strategic recommendations for co-operation to the Nordic Council of Ministers for the Environment and Climate at their meeting in Stockholm.

The main recommendation underlines the urgency of the need for change. The Nordic Region must concentrate its strengths to make an effective contribution to achieving the long-term climate goals in the Paris Agreement and the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. The former minister reiterated that the next few years will be crucial in many ways, not least for climate change.

“The world doesn’t have the time – and can’t afford – to hesitate on green transition, and the Nordic countries have both the will and tools to lead the way.  In the worst cases, climate change has negative consequences for other aspects of the environment. Biodiversity has already suffered, which has a knock-on effect on the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we produce,” adds the former minister who was involved in the negotiations that led up to the Paris Agreement.

Working together boosts competitiveness

The Nordic countries in the green transition – more than just neighbours proposes systematic co-operation to help the individual countries identify and implement the best possible solutions in terms of legislation, administration and technology. It also recommends that research and knowledge production funded by Nordic co-operation should have a strong focus on solutions.

The Nordic countries have similar approaches to the green transition and, according to Tine Sundtoft, also have broadly similar and often complementary experiences with nature, the use of chemicals, the challenges facing biodiversity, etc. As a result, there is considerable potential for knowledge sharing and the development of high-quality, cost-effective solutions, which will lead, in the final analysis, to competitive advantages on the global market.

Plastics would make a good starting point for this form of Nordic co-operation and would help make the circular economy tangible and reduce the drain on natural resources. The fact that 700,000 tons p.a. of plastic is incinerated or ends up in landfill sites around the Nordic Region is a waste of resources and could be turned into a benefit for both the environment and industry. The report recommends establishing a Nordic forum on a toxin-free, circular economy for plastics.

Translating the green transition into a language that is better understood from a social and economic perspective will be a major educational task.

“It is important that we channel private and public-sector capital into the green transition. One of the things Nordic co-operation can do is bring together key stakeholders and speed up the development of greener financial markets. We should be helping the public sector in the various countries to make the best possible use of public funding to support the green transition,” Sundtoft added.

Over to the politicians

Dagfinn Høybråten, the Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers, considers the report's conclusions highly relevant to Nordic co-operation on climate and the environment.

“This review is one result of the reform process Nordic co-operation has been undergoing and paves the way for generating even greater added value in the climate and environmental sectors in the years to come,” he says.

Tine Sundtoft says that it is now over to the politicians and calls on them to transform mutual understanding and goodwill into deeds.

“If all of the Nordic countries want to cope with the transition, then their leaders must work together and support each other. Everybody agrees that the Nordic Region has the will and the wherewithal to show the way in the transition that the world must and will go through so that planet Earth is capable of sustaining a population of 10 billion in 2050. The time has come to act,” she concludes.

According to the Swedish Minister of the Environment, Karolina Skog, who is chair of the Nordic Council of Ministers for the Environment and Climate in 2018, the report pinpoints several important opportunities for Nordic co-operation on the environment to make significant progress.

“By their very nature, environmental questions are cross-border issues and only joint initiatives will address the challenges we face. The report confirms this and stresses the importance of continuing to strengthen and deepen our already close Nordic collaboration,” she says.

The report “The Nordic countries in the green transition – more than just neighbours” is the result of more than 100 discussions Tine Sundtoft held with ministers, MPs, civil servants, scientists and environmental organisations throughout the Nordic Region, as well as in the EU, UN and OECD. The report is the fourth sector-specific strategic review at Nordic level.

Read the report in full:

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