Nature has always inspired me and it has played a significant role in my life. For me, nature is a place to calm down and think, and be a part of it. That’s why I joined an environmental organisation in my early ages: To protect nature from certain powers in the society that have lost their connection with it. Perhaps that is even one reason why I ended up as the Minister of the Environment.

Every time I pass Hanasaari, the huge pile of black coal steals my focus. I can’t help asking myself “why are we still burning coal for energy in 2018 when we have had the technologies for clean and sustainable energy production for decades already?”

Black coal has played its role in history, around the wave of industrialization. But these days, when climate change is a real threat to our ecosystem, it is hard to understand the reasons for burning this highly pollutive fuel. We are only one part of nature and we do not have the right to put it and our entire future at risk. If we would have to choose between promoting ecology or promoting economy, what should be our choice? It is all about values. What do we value the most?

The Finnish government has decided in its program that Finland will phase out the use of black coal for energy by 2030. It’s a very ambitious and important goal for reaching the targets of the Paris climate agreement, that is, keeping the global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius. However, the latest information on the impacts of climate action tells us that the EU is not on track to achieve even that 2 degrees Celsius target. We need to do more and cut emissions fast. That’s why I decided to examine the possibility of advancing the coal phase-out schedule by five years so that the coal burning would end at the end of 2025.

But what would this plan to phase out coal already in 2025 mean to Helsinki and its inhabitants? As we know Helsinki’s district heating system relies on coal. Of course, the ocean view will change nearby coal plants, for example in the Hanasaari area and It would mean fresher and cleaner air for all of us living in Helsinki. But most importantly, this would be a great opportunity for Helsinki to brand itself as one of the leading clean and green cities of Europe, or even the world. That combined with Helsinki’s unique urban culture and the Nordic atmosphere would be a success factor for Finland as a whole.

Luckily we are already taking action to phase out coal. The Hanasaari power plant will be closed down by 2024. However, the Salmisaari plant will continue functioning and using coal. I hope that my hometown Helsinki will not be the last city in Finland using coal for energy.

So let’s make black coal history and welcome a new tomorrow for Helsinki and Finland. I think we all deserve it.

Kimmo Tiilikainen

Minister of Housing and Environment of Finland