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The year 2015 was an extremely important one for international efforts to enhance sustainable development globally. First, all the countries of the world agreed upon 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their implementation plan, Agenda 2030. For the first time ever, there are shared goals for all countries to work for socially, environmentally and economically sustainable development. Later in 2015, we succeeded in negotiating the Paris Climate Agreement. Again, the majority of states were committed to working towards its goal of keeping global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius.

A couple of weeks back I was in New York at the High-Level Political Forum for Sustainable Development, the United Nations’ follow-up platform for Agenda 2030 implementation. This year it was not Finland’s turn to report on our implementation, as we did that already in 2016, but I had the pleasure of commenting on some other countries’ implementation plans and results. It was really inspiring to see how actively countries around the world have taken up the task to implement the SDGs.

We Finns have done our part well and developed innovations that attract huge interest among the international community.

The Government adopted a National Implementation Plan for the Agenda 2030 in early 2017, focusing on carbon-neutrality and resource-wisdom, as well as non-discrimination, equality, and competence. Our main practical tool for implementing the SDGs is called Society’s Commitment to Sustainable Development. It is an online platform where different actors – including municipalities, ministries, businesses, NGOs and private citizens – can make pledges to enhance sustainable development in concrete ways. 

The practice is simple: you make a commitment, act to implement it, and then measure and report on the progress. Currently, there are over 800 voluntary commitments at the platform, including mine; to cut by half the CO2 emissions from my personal driving.

In its Agenda 2030 Implementation Plan, the Government decided to include the principles and objectives of sustainable development in the foresight activities and budget preparation. Hence, next year’s state budget will include considerations on how the activities of different ministries contribute to working towards sustainable development. This is an important step in mainstreaming sustainable development into all governmental activities.

In budgeting, particular focus is put on carbon-neutrality and resource-wisdom. Budgetary allocations and implications to climate action, bio-economy, circular economy, clean-tech innovations and sustainable public procurement, as well as international environmental agreements, development cooperation and climate investments, will be studied carefully. The budget proposal and the budget review 2019 will also examine the main taxation issues and incorporate a qualitative assessment of public funding detrimental to the environment and sustainable development.

Working for a sustainable future for ourselves and coming generations is our joint task. Governments must take the lead but all other actors in the society need to be onboard. Every effort counts and no actions are considered too small.

Kimmo Tiilikainen

Minister of the Environment, Energy and Housing