Special Envoy for Climate Change: Just green transition a condition for solving environmental problems

Finland’s new Special Envoy for Climate Change Kerstin Stendahl has been following international climate and environmental negotiations for nearly three decades. Stendahl has held leading positions in the Ministry of the Environment and in the United Nations, among other places.

Kerstin Stendahl protects nature even in her leisure time.

Stendahl, a Senior Ministerial Adviser on International Affairs, is so seasoned in environmental affairs that she does not suffer from climate anxiety, despite all the work and the significant global challenges ahead of us.

“I think we are heading in the right direction. We have good international climate and environmental agreements. Now, it is essential to implement them efficiently. We also have a solid scientific basis for finding solutions to environmental problems. In Finland, we have an ambitious new Climate Act and a national target to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035.”

Good governance promotes environmental protection

According to Stendahl, it is essential that everyone share the goal of a just green transition.  We will not leave anyone behind. Democracy, good governance and people’s inclusion promote a fair climate and environmental policy across the world.

Before taking up her current post at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Stendahl served as Head of the Ecosystems Integration Branch of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Kenya in 2020–2022.

“Climate change is making it impossible to predict rainy seasons with any accuracy in eastern Africa. Both ‘short rains’ and ‘long rains’ fail to start on time and drought makes farming difficult. I was in Kenya during the COVID-19 pandemic and saw how environmental concerns were eclipsed by the pandemic in decision-making.”

Climate conferences should assign emissions reduction targets for all countries

The topics at the heart of the Climate Change Conference COP27 in Egypt were financing matters and, as a new agenda item, compensation for damage and losses caused by climate change.

The COP27 decided eventually to establish a fund to help the most vulnerable countries in dealing with damage and losses caused by climate change. Financing will be sought not only from developed countries but also from new sources, such as faster developing countries and innovative sources of finance.

According to Stendahl, Finland belongs to a group of ambitious EU Member States that is advocating stricter emission reduction targets for non-EU countries in the forthcoming COP28 in Dubai.

“We should get non-EU countries more strongly involved in the commitments promoting carbon neutrality. It is also important to talk about how environmental toxins and pollution are linked to the rapidly advancing loss of biodiversity.”

The Special Envoy for Climate Change sees Finland as an important player in climate and environmental matters.

“We are a credible international partner in the promotion of sustainable development, and we have more influence than our size would suggest. We must ensure that Finland’s national climate action, too, makes the case for us.”

Text: Karoliina Romanoff