Sonja Finér: “Socially just transition to a carbon neutral society”

“Socially just transition to a carbon neutral society” is the topic presented by Sonja Finér, Executive Director of Finnwatch, at a serial event hosted at Tampere University by the students of the Leadership for Change Master´s programme.

Sustainability is an important topic for the majority of program students, and the practical implications as well as a better understanding of “social justice” which then leads to “just transition” is a good start for building the knowledge.

When talking about the transition, we tend to look for the reasons why to change and whether it is really necessary.

During her lecture at Tampere University, Sonja Finér presents some facts that cannot be ignored and are not secrets for many of us; the CO2 level in the atmosphere is higher than ever, and it has been growing with unexpected speed; the climate change is already causing living in danger for many people, like fire in Australia or Amazon. Besides climate change, the biodiversity is shrinking, which is a serious problem.

LFC master’s student Alberto Monroy-Trujillo introduces Sonja Finér before the lecture starts

The challenges we face today will not be solved with simple changes; transformation is needed which means re-building the whole society, as presented by Sonja Finér. The change in the mindset is needed to move towards electrification, circular economy, practice of sharing (not owning), plant-based diets; towards protecting and conserving biodiversity and towards carbon capture. As we can see, too many areas have to be addressed, which cannot be achieved through simple change.

When the transition takes place, sometimes, we hear about “social justice”, where the general roles are equality of rights, equality of opportunities, and equality in living conditions. This does not mean that corporations should be compensated for not polluting the air. However, the support needs to be given for some cases where an organization has been an important part of social life or similar. One clean line does not exist, but it is clear that market leaders losing their business niche not always are the most important factor for society.

Sonja Finér states in her presentation that “just transition” is focused on “two main dimensions (meaningful social dialogue and burden sharing) and outcomes (decent work, inclusivity and eradication of poverty in an ecologically sustainable society)”. It has to be an integral part and planned with holistic and dedicated approaches. Finnwatch strives towards just transition through all three pillars of sustainability: ecological from a climate perspective, social from a human rights perspective, and economical through tax perspective. They have published several research reports, which have been looking at sustainability from dimensions others have not done yet. They are aiming to 1) implement ambitious laws in Finland, which then can be taken to the EU level ultimately having legislation which affects global rules too, 2) design socially just carbon taxes, which includes progressive fiscal taxes, transformative carbon taxes, Pigouvian taxes.

Finér emphasizes that the public perception is that Finland has nothing to do with climate change, as other countries are the ones responsible for producing a high amount of emissions and goods like China. However, based on consumption-based emission, Western countries are just as responsible for the pollution and emissions of what is produced in China. When looking at consumption-based emission, Finland’s carbon footprint is 33% bigger than official national carbon emissions, natural resources are used 10 times more than should be, and the annual carbon footprint is 10 000 kilos/person, when it should be 2500 kilos/person. Therefore, Finnwatch wants that 1) companies take the responsibility for their supply chains with a specific focus on risk countries, 2) Finland’s new Climate law includes the consumption-based emissions, 3) carbon footprints are tender criteria to public procurement, 4) coal would be phased out.

We thank Sonja Finér for sharing her knowledge and experiences with us, as well as for answering the audience’s questions. The lecture has proven to be enlightening for the audience, and we highlight the relevance of the insights and knowledge provided by her, a leading expert on the field. It is important to remember that, as Finér mentioned before finalizing the lecture, we all can make change happen, so we must decide to act to help our society to transition to a sustainable future.

We would like to thank Sonja for her participation in this first lecture in the three-part lecture series of the Leadership for Change Master´s programme.

Group Finér: Santa Bürkland, Jasmina Ahonen, Mariana Dieste Martinez, Belen Fuentes, Alberto Monroy Trujillo, Mirjam Schwitter, Gresa Shemsedini-Sylejmani, Katarina Sladakovic, Emma Åkerman.

The blog post is reflection based on presentation given on February 7, 2020 Tampere University; therefore, all text is referenced to presentation, and the blog post does not hold blog writer opinions or own inputs.

Reference: Sonja Finér. 2020. Socially just transition to a carbon neutral society. Tampere University

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