28 August 2018
CSOs Share Expertise for Advancing Finland’s SDG Progress
Photo by Luis Del Río Camacho
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Finland was one of the first countries to develop a national implementation plan and define national indicators required to monitor progress on sustainable development.

The report recommends looking at decisions that are detrimental to sustainable development, such as tax support for fossil fuels.

The CSOs note that the budget proposal for 2019 will be estimated mainly from the climate change perspective, focusing on carbon neutrality and resource use, and recommend widening the approach.

July 2018: A group of Finnish civil society organizations (CSOs) shared experiences and knowledge on enhancing sustainable development in a report on the 2030 Agenda, in particular the six SDGs reviewed in depth at the 2018 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). The report titled, ‘Finland and the 2030 Agenda: A follow-up report by CSOs,’ discusses the state of sustainable development in Finland, visions about the future, and recommendations for decision-makers at the global, national and local levels.

The report covers SDGs 6, 7, 11, 12 , 15 and 17. It explains that while the SDGs are linked, some can be at odds with each other, and recommends looking at decisions that are detrimental to sustainable development.

Regarding Goal 6 (clean water and sanitation), the report notes interlinkages with, among others, SDG 2 (zero hunger), SDG 5 (gender equality) and SDG 3 (good health and well-being), as investments in water and sanitation can lead to reduced health care costs. It also notes that: Finland’s investments in water sector projects have decreased by more than the cutbacks in development cooperation; water distribution networks are aging; and funding for research is lacking. (Read more on Finland’s aid decline here.) The report recommends that Finland, inter alia:

  • update its international strategy for the water sector;
  • promote private sector and local investments in the water sector;
  • increase international cooperation to strengthen know-how and increase the sector’s attractiveness;
  • ensure the sustainable use of existing water resources;
  • invest in more efficient water consumption, wastewater management, recycling and reuse technologies, and education and research; and
  • on the part of municipalities and regional governments, inform residents about water stewardship.

Regarding SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy), the report notes that: Finland’s energy production is largely based on fossil fuels; the country’s fossil fuel consumption per person is more than European and global averages; and one in ten species in Finland is endangered. Globally, the report recommends that Finland: ensure an ecologically sustainable and fair energy system that functions without fossil fuels; join the Eradicating Ecocide initiative and, when necessary, criminalize conspicuous consumption; and from 2020, contribute annually to international climate funding by at least €200 million, particularly for least developed countries (LDCs).

Nationally, the report suggests that Finland set binding energy targets; harmonize licensing practices; and ban fossil energy production by 2030 and stop coal and peat use by 2025. Locally, the report calls on municipalities and provinces to: stop using coal and peat in energy produc­tion plants; begin using wood-based solutions; improve energy efficiency through economic incentives; and introduce demand-side man­agement in buildings owned by municipalities and provinces.

Regarding SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities), the report recommends that, globally, Finland should: initiate a programme for “reciprocal sustainable urban development”; ensure that business activities in cities in developing countries support the well-being of residents and the environment; and encouraging less consumption, such as through a voluntary carbon tax.

Nationally, the report recommends that Finland use taxation reform to support and fund local circular and sharing economy through taxation reform. It also suggests considering expenses that future generations will have to bear when making public purchases. Local recommendations include restricting the construction sector’s ability to affect municipal decision-making.

Regarding SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production), the report recommends that Finland: oblige companies to map and reduce negative impacts on human rights impacts; promote the international treaty on corporate human rights responsibilities; strengthen tax justice in Finland and the EU by requiring reporting from multinational corporations; and ensure development cooperation funds are in line with the Paris Agree­ment’s 1.5°C target.

The report explains that, by a 2017 law, public organizations can include labor rights, human rights and environmental conditions in their procurement criteria. Thus, it recommends: developing indicators that describe human well-being and the environment for monitoring state policies and budgets; making responsi­ble procurement decisions in public institutions; and halting the exploitation of child labor and forced labor from procurement chains.

Of relevance to SDG 15 (life on land), intensive forestry is threatening forest species in Finland; around 36% of threatened species live primarily in forest, and 70% of forest habitat types are threatened. However, only about 5.7% of actual forests, or productive forestland, is legally protected from logging, and the government aims to increase logging by 20%. In light of this, recommendations include:

  • protecting at least 17% of Finland’s forest area;
  • demanding corporate accountability to stop biodiversity loss;
  • advocating for a higher level of carbon emission targeting in the EU;
  • advancing activities that enhance ecosystems’ carbon sinks and storages;
  • halting support for peatland draining;
  • shifting municipal management of commercial forests to forestry without clear cutting; and
  • helping schools, daycare centers and educational institutions diversify learning environments and include environmental education.

Regarding SDG 17 (partnerships for the Goals), the report calls for: increasing funding of civil society actors to 15% of Finland’s development cooperation; strengthening the UN’s role in international tax-related cooperation, and ensuring all countries can participate in tax system renovation; increasing Finland’s international climate funding to €200 million a year by 2020; and reinvesting carbon trade income in international development and climate funding.

Nationally, the report recommends: using the SDGs as a basis for government programming and budgeting; improving data collection and monitoring to better determine progress regarding sustainable development; and exe­cuting the EU Anti-Tax Avoidance Directive to make aggressive tax planning illegal. Local-level recommendations include: organizing an application procedure for annual grants for environmental education and information; increasing financing of associations and citizens’ groups; and including guidance on sustainability and social responsibil­ity in procurement instructions.

The authors note that Finland’s Ministry of Finance has initiated a process to assess the national budget from a sustainable development perspective. However, Finland’s budget proposal for 2019 is expected to be estimated mainly from the climate change perspective, focusing on carbon neutrality and resource use, and they recommend widening the planning to cover other sectors.

The report recalls that Finland was one of the first countries to develop a national implementation plan (adopted in 2016 and approved by parliament in February 2017) and to define national indicators required to monitor progress on sustainable development. Finland presented a voluntary national review at the 2016 session of the HLPF, which highlighted its use of 39 national sustainable development indicators to monitor and review status and trends in sustainable development, which would be revised in line with the 2030 Agenda.. Providing an update on progress in 2017, Annika Lindblom, Secretary-General, Finland’s National Commission on Sustainable Development, noted that stakeholders from civil society, business, and the research community were involved in the definition of SDG indicators, and the follow-up and review system is anchored in the eight objectives of the ‘Society’s Commitment.’ The system is composed of ten indicator “baskets,” each of which contains four to five indicators to be updated once a year, based on inputs from authorities and the public. A monitoring platform will be made available on the sustainable development website of the Prime Minister’s office.

The 2018 SDG Index from the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and Bertelsmann Stiftung assessed Finland as one of the highest-ranking countries on the SDGs, but notes that even those face significant challenges in achieving the SDGs.

Finland will report every four years to the HLPF, with its next VNR anticipated for 2020. [Publication: Finland and the 2030 Agenda: A follow-up report by CSOs] [Social Watch Press Release]

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