Category Archives: 2019

COP25 in Madrid

Our PhD candidate Karoliina Hurri participated in the 25th Conference of the Parties (COP25) held in Madrid 2-15 Dec 2019. She was an observer of the University of Helsinki and focused mainly on following the dynamics between the nations within the high-level events and side events organized by China. Below are her thoughts about the COP25 outcome and next year:

Expectations postponed to 2020

The outcome of COP25 has been defined widely as a disappointment because many of the key issues remained unsolved and were pushed to be decided next year in COP26 in Glasgow, UK. Many had high expectations for the COP and the slogan of the conference #TimeforAction boosted the request to increase the ambition in 2019. However, considering the agenda of the COP25 and the global political situation this weak outcome cannot be described as a surprise: COP25 was a technical mid-term conference. Not a political one, like the next year’s COP26 Glasgow will be.

Since COP24, the climate movement has accelerated: people are becoming more aware of the climate emergency we are facing and the demand for higher climate ambition is growing. Sadly, this urgency was not present in the negotiation rooms among the political leaders of the world. In a comparison to the messages of the IPCC Special Report issued in 2018 and for example to the climate movement led by Greta Thunberg, already the agenda of COP25 revealed the slowness of governments and the UN system to answer to the growing demands of people. Climate emergency is moving faster than the governments.

European Union was the first major emitter who scaled up their climate ambition with the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. In addition, the European Green Deal was presented on Wednesday 11th of December, during the second week of COP25. The Finnish Minister of the Environment and Climate, Krista Mikkonen was hoping the deal to gather responses from other Parties to increase their climate ambition. However, for this purpose and within the context of COP25, the deal came too late. After the presentation of the deal, there were only two official negotiation days left. This was a good example that if you want to lead by example, you must give others time to react.

Next year EU needs to enhance their 2030 target and if EU truly wishes to lead by example, the schedule for presenting the 2030 target should be well thought. Parties are expected to submit their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) by 2020 to communicate about their hopefully more ambitious national climate plans. If EU wants others to follow their example, it should review the 2030 target early enough to give time for the others to respond. If EU has not agreed on the 2030 target well before COP26, it does not have the legitimacy to urge others to submit theirs before the deadline, the end of 2020.

The level of climate ambition by EU is crucial especially for the EU-China summit in September. Paris Agreement was largely formulated by China and the United States. United States withdrawing from the agreement next year increases the need for the EU to step up. China will unlikely strengthen its NDC if both EU and the US are uncertain partners in climate ambition.

In addition to the EU-China summit, for me the hope of next year lies in China’s next five-year plan for 2021-2025. The plan and particularly its energy transition and climate targets are globally significant as China has so much potential to reduce its emissions with renewables. The final plan will most likely be approved in early 2021. In COP25, China’s pavilion hosted a number of events related to the renewable sector and the numbers for example in Solar PV Outlook are impressive: “By 2050, PV will become China’s No.1 power source.” There are many plausible opportunities for China to enhance its NDC in different fields.

Considering the amount of work left from COP25 to COP26 and the urgency to truly peak the global emissions, next year should be busy. Because of the stiffness of the UNFCCC process, the G7 and the G20 summits could be potential events for finding common ground among the biggest emitters to upgrade their climate action. However, this hope is diminished by the fact that in 2020 G7 meeting is hosted by the United States and G20 by Saudi Arabia. Both of these countries hindered the progress in COP25 together with Australia and Brazil.

COP25 increased my understanding of effective presidency. This year individual countries such as Brazil and Australia had a loud voice. In addition, the negotiations stretching to the longest COP in history increased the inequality among the parties: many delegations from developing countries did not have the possibility to prolong their stay in Madrid. President of COP26 should make sure that all Parties have the equal possibility to participate in the final hours of the negotiations.

The host for COP26 will be the UK and despite the challenges that Brexit might bring, diplomatic skills of the UK are strong. Thus, the expectations for next year’s presidency are high. For example, in 2015 the French diplomacy played an important role in agreeing on the Paris Agreement.

Next year will set the direction whether governments truly wish to reach the 1.5 ˚C path. The path of 1.5 ˚C is not only about decreasing emissions but also about providing assistance for the ones who need it. Here, for example Finland has more to do. The insufficient climate funding from developed countries and the lack of agreed methodology to calculate the level of financing was visible in COP25 as a decreased trust among the Parties. Developing countries find it difficult to enhance their NDCs next year if they cannot rely on the promises they have been given earlier about the access and amount of funding.

Last year, after COP24 I thought that 2019 would be the year of ambition. After COP25, it is clear that it still was not #TimeforAction. I hope that after COP26 my expectations will not be postponed similarly to the following year but 2020 would prove out to be the year of ambition. For this, 2020 should bring along enhanced NDCs, ambitious long-term strategies, more financial pledges from the developed countries and a COP where urgency is better acknowledged also inside the negotiation rooms.

Onko edessä uusien suurvaltojen aika? Näin energia­mullistus ravistelee maailman­politiikan valta-asetelmia

Helsingin Sanomat published a large feature article titled “Onko edessä uusien suurvaltojen aika? Näin energia­mullistus ravistelee maailman­politiikan valta-asetelmia” (Is it time for new superpowers? In this way, the energy change shakes global power setting). The author of the article investigates whether the ongoing energy transition collapse the old energy superpowers and give rise to new ones. Professor Tynkkynen provided a detailed account of Russian perspective:

In terms of export earnings, oil is more important to Russia than gas. Demand for oil is not expected to decline same way as coal. But if that was the case, the blow to Russia would be a big one.
“Russia is dependent on oil and gas, which could lose their market in 30 years. That is not a safe Russia. Therefore, Russia’s uncritical attitude towards hydrocarbons is not harmless,” says Tynkkynen, a Russian energy and environmental specialist.
Tynkkynen reminds that two-thirds of Russian export energy is imported into Europe.
“Therefore it is also our responsibility to help Russia move towards a low-carbon society. ”

The full article can be read either in print or online.

Som liten kille lekte han på gatorna i Moskva, nu forskar han i hur ryska makthavare tänker i energifrågor

A big interview with Professor Tynkkynen was published Svenska Yle. The article and the interview itself are both in Swedish – Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen aims to speak all languages of FInland’s neighbours. The interview tells about his love for languages, new book “The Energy of Russia”, Russian energy and foreign policy, and many other things that Professor Tynkkynen is interested in. Read the interview online on Yle website.

Additionally, you can here to the part of the interview in radio programme Aktuellt, it starts around 25th minute.

The Changing Nature of Russia’s Arctic Presence: A Case Study of Pyramiden

In February 2019 Alina Bykova, a Master’s student at the Centre for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto attended our “Russian and Post-socialist environment and energy” research seminar, where she presented a draft version of her Master’s thesis “The changing nature of Russia’s Arctic presence: a case study of Pyramiden”. For her thesis she also interviewed Professor Tynkkynen. The thesis examines the development of Soviet mining colonies on the Norwegian Arctic archipelago of Svalbard (Spitsbergen). Now the thesis is ready and was published as a short article on the Arctic Institute’s website.

Sakari Höysniemi received Kone grant

Our PhD candidate Sakari Höysniemi received 1-year funding from Kone Foundation to finish his dissertation “Between security and sustainability: socio-technical investigations on the development of energy security in Finland”.

The grant was awarded to only 5,8% of the applicants, so we sincerely congratulate Sakari with this absolutely deserved achievement!

“The Energy of Russia. Hydrocarbon Culture and Climate Change” is out

Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen’s new book “The Energy of Russia. Hydrocarbon Culture and Climate Change” has been published.

This timely book analyses the status of hydrocarbon energy in Russia as both a saleable commodity and as a source of societal and political power. Through empirical studies in domestic and foreign policy contexts, Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen explores the development of a hydrocarbon culture in Russia and the impact this has on its politics, identity and approach to climate change and renewable energy.

Cogent and compelling, this book demonstrates how the Russian state leverages its oil and gas reserves in order to create and maintain power both domestically and internationally. Tynkkynen uses empirical studies of key topics such as the national gas programme Gazprom, the Arctic, climate discourse and anthropogenic climate change denial, and the Russia-Finland energy trade to critically examine the situation. The book concludes with a convincing argument for the potential of renewable energy to build a more resilient and sustainable future for Russia and how this might be achieved.

This will prove crucial reading for scholars and students of Russian and Eastern European studies and energy and environmental studies, as well as geographers, anthropologists and political scientists. Those working in governments, international organizations and corporations with an interest in Russian energy will also find its insights useful.

The book can be ordered now online at the publisher’s website.

Additionally, there will be a book launch event organised on 17th of January 2020 at Tiedekulma from 13 to 14. More information can be found on event page on Facebook.

New project – Three year research grant from the University of Helsinki

Our colleague, Dr. Margarita Zavadskaya, was awarded with three-year research grant for her project “Electoral Malpractice, Cyber-security, and Political Consequences in Russia and Beyond (ElMaRB)”. The grants for three-year research projects are intended for promising researchers of the University of Helsinki. The funding is aimed at supporting future research leaders in gaining independency and in establishing a research group at the University of Helsinki. Our PhD student Elena Gorbacheva will join ElMaRB research project, together with another PhD candidate Eemil Mitikka.

The recent populist turn, the revival of nationalism, and the rise of ‘fake news’ in new and old democracies spurred a number of concerns in the academic and expert communities. Are existing democratic institutions fool-proof enough to protect societies from undermining citizens’ trust in political institutions and sliding back to a more authoritarian political set-up? Transparent and uncompromised elections still remain the essential feature of any democracy and serve as the major channel of selecting political leadership in advanced and new democracies. Over the last five years, the Russian government mastered the art of rigging domestic elections to such an extent that it has recently become a major ‘exporter’ of electoral malpractice elsewhere. The extensive use of mass media and internet-technologies has brought the spread of electoral malpractice to a new level, challenging the very trust in the credibility of electoral institutions in Russia and beyond. Electoral integrity has been challenged not just by intentional malpractice, unintended technological mishaps and public misperception of electoral processes transmitted by mass media.

The proposed three-years research project deals with the following research questions: does the information about compromised electoral integrity affect citizens’ trust in political institutions in post-communist countries? If so, does it lead to lower political participation? What affects political behavior stronger: the ‘objective’ quality of elections or public perception framed by mass media? What are the ways to prevent possible adverse political effects of electoral malpractice and, more specifically, negative imagining of elections in mass media? Expected outcomes include manuscripts for peer-reviewed journals in corresponding fields, creation of open-access datasets gathered in the course of the project and organizing annual research workshops to boost the University of Helsinki’s academic visibility.

Congratulations to Margarita and the group!

Rusko posiluje partnerství s Čínou. Obě země spojil obří plynovod za 55 miliard dolarů

A Czech news portal Info.cz published an article “Rusko posiluje partnerství s Čínou. Obě země spojil obří plynovod za 55 miliard dolarů”  (Russia is strengthening its partnership with China.  A giant $ 55 billion gas pipeline has joined two countries), for which Professor Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen provided comments.

“Russia is still dependent on the EU market. I think that the development of the oil and gas market, especially competition from LNG and renewable energies, has a greater effect on prices than the sale of discounted Russian gas to China,” According to him, the Power of Siberia is symbolically important for Russia – it can now be argued that Europe is no longer the main market for it. “It’s important for both domestic and foreign audiences,” Tynkkynen adds.

The article in Czech can be found online from here.

Workshop on EU-Russia Energy Dialogue in St. Petersburg

This Wednesday Professor Tynkkynen took part in the workshop on EU-Russia Energy Dialogue, organised in St. Petersburg, Russia. The participants of the workshop discussed the geopolitics of energy transition and climate change mitigation in the EU-Russia context. The event was organised by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs already for the second time.