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Researchers push for post-coronavirus major environmental leap

Published : 21 May 2020, 23:28

  DF News Desk

File Photo VisitFinland by Vilma Lehtonen.

The stimulus package after the COVID-19 crisis could facilitate a major leap in environmental protection and the combat against climate change, said Finnish recovery strategist and researchers on Thursday.

Economist Vesa Vihriälä, professor of Practice at University of Helsinki, on Thursday underlined the need to give preference to environmental needs as recovery investments start this autumn, reported news agency Xinhua.

Vihriälä is chairman of the economists group appointed earlier by Finnish Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment and the Ministry of Finance to prepare an expert assessment of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis and of measures that can be used to limit the damage to the Finnish economy.

Talking to national radio Yle on Thursday, Vihriälä deplored that in the measures taken after the 2008 banking crisis, environmental and climate needs were "pushed aside" by acute financial policy needs. "Now we cannot afford that," Vihriälä told Yle.

Janne Hukkinen, professor of Environmental Policy at Helsinki University also emphasized the importance of environmental investment. He told Yle that Finland has now "an opportunity for a structural change" as major spending is available.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has a strong connection with the demise of the diversity of the ecological system," said Hukkinen. At a more general level, Finnish researchers warn that if the speed of fighting climate change is not accelerated, there will be more crises like the COVID-19.

Prof. Markku Ollikainen, chairman of the Finnish Climate Panel at the Ministry of Environment, said on Yle that the COVID-19 recovery investments could be the first time additional major input would be available for environmental needs in Finland.

The Finnish Climate Panel has listed projects that could start on short notice in the country, including maritime wind power, energy efficiency overhauls, more geothermal heating systems and public transportation construction.

According to Ollikainen, many of those projects would be actually "spade-ready".

Researchers have also said the COVID-19 recovery investments could bring Finland to a new level of crisis resilience, and also create export opportunities.