MPs/Peers share perspectives on climate, COVID-19 with their counterparts in Finland
On 29 April, BGIPU convened a bilateral meeting between UK and Finnish Parliamentarians. The discussion was led by Executive Committee Treasurer, Mr Alex Sobel MP, and he was joined by Mr Angus MacNeil MP, Ms Anne McLaughlin MP, Baroness Blower, Baroness Kidron, Baroness Ramsay, Mr Ben Spencer MP (Chair of the Finnish APPG), Mr Douglas Chapman MP, Mr James Gray MP, Lord Balfe, Lord Kirkhope, Lord Mountevans, Lord Reay, Ms Marion Fellows MP and Viscount Craigavon.
On the Finnish side were the Chair of the Finnish IPU Group, Ms Heli Järvinen, Vice Chair of the Friendship Group, Mr. Antero Laukkanen, and Ms Ms Sari Essayah, Ms Mai Kivelä, Mr Johannes Koskinen, Ms Merja Kyllönen, Ms Elina Valtonen, Ms Kristiina Salonen, Ms Sari Tanus.
The Finnish Ambassador to the UK, Mr Markku Keinänen, attended, along with the UK Ambassador to Finland, Mr Tom Dodd, and the Second Secretary, Mr Ashley Hilsdon.
Mr Alex Sobel opened the discussion by extending a warm welcome to everyone on the call. The first topic to be discussed was COP26 and action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Under Prime Minister Ms Sanna Marin’s leadership, climate change is top of the agenda for Finland. The country has pledged to be cardon-neutral by 2035; the UK government target is to be carbon-neutral by 2050. Both sides expressed their hope that it will be possible to meet in person in Glasgow for COP26 later this year.
The discussion moved on to the topic of ensuring an economic and societal recovery from COVID-19, that is sustainable and focused on citizen wellbeing. All Members agreed that the pandemic end must be used as an opportunity to rebuild society to make it equal for everyone.
The topic of education was brought up by Baroness Blower, former General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers between 2009 – 2016. Finland is well known for its remarkably successful education system which does not formally test students until their final years in school. Baroness Blower is influential in the UK education system and the Finnish delegation offered to collaborate further with her in her endeavours. Mr Angus MacNeil commented that Scotland has taken after Finland in giving every new parent a baby box with all necessary equipment for the first few months of a child’s life.
The strong interest and engagement from both delegation was evident through the large number of parliamentarians who attended this UK – Finland Bilateral meeting. There is hope that the delegations will be able to meet in person when international travel is possible. Both sides were grateful for having the opportunity to discuss matters of both domestic and international importance. The meeting was extremely useful to learn about the other side’s perspective and discuss the importance of a sustainable recovery post COVID-19.