Interview for Czech media

Professor Tynkkynen gave an interview to the Czech media Seznam Zprávy, which was published in the article “Buď bude EU vůči Rusku jednotná, nebo slabší, říká finský expert na energetiku” (roughly translated as “The EU will either unite with Russia or will get weaker, says Finnish energy expert“). The interview covered a wide scope of issues, from Nord Stream 2 to Olkiluoto 3 nuclear power station and Fennovoima.

The full article in Czech can be read online.

Nord Stream 2 – kaikkien aikojen kallein hukkaputki?

New Helsingin Sanomat’ Sanoma Tekniikkajulkaisut issue “Ideat”  published a new piece “Kaikkien aikojen kallein hukkaputki?” (Most expensive spill pipe of all time?), for which Professor Tynkkynen provided comments. The article discusses Nord Stream 2 pipeline transporting natural gas from Russia to Europe and the challenges it creates and faces – from the repercussions of Navalny’s poisoning to the United States’ opposition to the project.

The full version of the article can be read online.

“Ultimately, it may take a climate-related natural disaster to spur Russia toward sustainability.”

Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen wrote an article “Could Russia Embrace an Energy Transition?” for the upcoming 819 issue of the “Current History” journal. Current History is the oldest publication devoted exclusively to international affairs published in the United States. The journal aims to observe and explain the profound changes transforming every region of the world, providing readers with a better understanding of today’s crucial events and pressing global trends through contributions from leading and emerging experts and scholars.

Fossil energy, political power, and climate denial are intertwined in Russia to such an extent that building support for an ambitious policy of reducing emissions and transitioning from a fossil-based energy system to a carbon-neutral one will be extremely difficult, even in the event that relatively more progressive leadership comes to power. But Russia has much more to gain than to lose from coming to terms with reality and seizing its opportunity to become a leader in the global shift to renewable energy

The full version of the article is available in PDF.

special issue of Kosmopolis co-edited by Sanna Kopra and Miina Kaarkoski, is out

A new special issue of Kosmopolis, co-edited by Sanna Kopra and Miina Kaarkoski, is out. Alongside with co-writing editorial “Ilmasto kuumenee – muuttuuko turvallisuuspolitiikka?” (Climate is heating up – is the security politics changing?), Dr. Kopra also wrote an article “Suurvaltavastuu ja johtaus kansainvälisissä ilmastopolitiikassa. Englatilaisen koulukunnan näkökulma” (Great power responsibility and leadership in international climate policy. The perspective of the English school).

Leadership Symposium in Tampere

Today Tampere University organises Leadership Symposium (Johtajuussymposium), and Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen is one of the panelists there.

Seminars and panels at the Leadership Symposium bring together representatives from the university, the business world and public administration over the themes of sustainability. The event provides eleven seminars with the impressive coverage of speeches from the top experts, as well as diverse perspectives on the theme of the day. Grab the challenge and move from words to deeds. Together, we can find solutions to the challenges of sustainable development!

Professor Tynkkynen was one of the speakers at the panel “Kestävä energia ja huoltovarmuus ” (Sustainable energy and security of supply) together with Pami Aalto (Jean Monnet -professor, Tampereen University), Arto Räty (Senior Vice President, Corporate Affairs and Communicatios, Fortum), and Harri Laurikka (toimitusjohtaja, Bioenergia ry).

In the vision of the EL-TRAN consortium, wind power, together with nuclear power and hydropower, will become the basic solution for Finnish energy production alongside the Nordic and wider European electricity trade. At the same time, bioenergy will remain part of the energy production solution, but partly in a new role. In public road traffic, there will be a shift to wind-assisted electrification, and in heavy road transport – to domestic biogas. Domestic biofuels are consumed, especially in maritime and air transport, in a mixed share. The problems of more weather-dependent electricity generation will be solved with various domestic flexible solutions that extend to ordinary households and also utilize electric car batteries in addition to bioenergy.

All this means that very few fossil fuels will be imported from abroad, while so far, among other things, Russian imports have accounted for about 45% of Finland’s primary energy consumption. The consequences are significant not only for security of supply issues in public administration, but also for energy companies in terms of both creative destruction and new business opportunities. All this also binds Finland much less to fossil fuel producers, while the importance of the Finnish market for them decreases.

Here is the video recording of the panel:

Learn more about the event at the Symposium’s webpage.

Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen has been promoted to full professor

Our research group leader Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen has been awarded a full professorship by the Rector of Helsinki University. From the 1st of January 2021, Tynkkynen’s position will be Professor in Russian Environmental Studies.

Congratulations, Veli-Pekka, on this significant and well-deserved milestone!

Hilma Salonen defended her PhD

Today our Hilma Salonen has defended her doctoral dissertation “Russian Renewable Energy Politics in the Arctic: National Priorities and Local Realities”.  The Opponent was professor Greg Poelzer, University of Saskatchewan, and the Custos was professor Janne Hukkinen, University of Helsinki. Due to the travel restrictions, the Opponent took part in the defense online.

The Russian Arctic is known of its vastness of space, unrelenting weather and
natural resources. Renewable energy, however, is rarely linked with developing the
country’s Arctic regions. This dissertation explores what kind of importance could
de-centralized energy sources have in a setting dominated by fossil fuel revenues.
Initiatives launched by private actors are mainly absent in the Russian Arctic, but
this does not mean that the local level does not have agency of its own, nor does it
rule out interesting side trajectories developed in the regions. This study examines
these issues with the help of three case studies, which explore (i) the key priorities
of national renewable energy policies, (ii) the enabling and restricting factors behind
the use of biomass for energy in Arkhangelsk, and (iii) the relation between existing
power structures and new energy projects in the Republic of Sakha.

In addition to increasing knowledge on renewable energy use in the Russian Arctic
regions, this study contributes to the theoretical discussions on public justification,
sociotechnical (energy) transitions and the multi-level perspective approach, and
carbon lock-ins. With the help of these theoretical concepts, it is possible to analyze
Russian energy politics not only as a special case but as a part of a bigger continuum of
sociotechnical transitions. Since literature on energy transitions has mainly discussed
transition cases in market-led, energy-importing countries, evaluating its key notions
in the context of the Russian Arctic offers new viewpoints on their adaptability.

The results of this dissertation state that the Russian official discourse promoting
renewable energy use favors concrete, technical objectives at the expense of a more
ambitious long-term vision. Various lock-ins restrict the possibility of alternative
energy forms to develop, and while new actors work alone, existing lock-ins
reinforce each other. However, even the current situation holds many possibilities for
alternative practices to find niches and develop. Energy policy-making and regional
development are neither top-down nor bottom-up affairs, but instead happen in a
dynamic interaction between local, regional, and national actors — despite the highly
centralized character of the current political system. These realities offer possibilities
for renewable energy projects to take root in the Russian Arctic, albeit as a part of the
great power politics related to fossil fuel exports.

Professor Poelzer highly praised Salonen’s work for its findings, methodological and theoretical approaches. He called it a “model case of how to do hard research work”. “She’s done masterful work in laying a new foundation in theoretical understanding of energy transitions”. Professor Poelzer especially praised the introduction part of the dissertation – «the part of the dissertation I returned to again and again is the introduction. It’s one of the best introductions I’ve read in 20 years.”. The Opponent called Hilma Salonen one of the most honest scholars he knows and a scholar he wants to follow for years to come. He encouraged Hilma to continue her research in the future and suggested, that the next step could be to compare the two cases she had in her PhD – Arkhangelsk oblast and Sakha republic. Profesor Poelzer thinks that what Hilma Salonen found in her research can help us better understand the differences in energy transitions, energy governance, and approaches to renewable energy in different contexts, like, for example, the Nordic countries. In his concluding remarks, the Opponent said that the dissertation is an example of how good social science research should be conducted and proposed that the dissertation is accepted.

Our research group is very proud of brilliant Hilma Salonen and congratulates her on successful defense!

Ethics and economics: The conflicting values of the esports industry

Professor Tynkkynen was cited in the recent article by The Washington Post titled “Ethics and economics: The conflicting values of the esports industry”. This excellent long read covers the stated in the title issues in great detail and in various contexts, and it also touched Russia’s energy giant Gazprom and its FACEIT (an esports platform) sponsorship:

Gazprombank’s recent sponsorship of FACEIT, for example, mirrors the company’s approach to sponsorships of FIFA, Schalke and the Champions League.

“It’s all about how Gazprom want to be seen in the European space — it normalizes Gazprom as a commercial enterprise,” Veli-Pekka Tynkynnen, Associate Professor of Russian and Eurasian Studies at the University of Helsinki, said.

The full article is available online.

Leadership in Global Environmental Politics

A new publication “Leadership in Global Environmental Politics” by Sanna Kopra is published in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of International Studies under the “Environment, International Relations Theory” subject in August. In the paper, Dr. Kopra provides a conceptual map of leadership in global environmental politics.

There is wide consensus among global environmental politics (GEP) scholars about the urgent need for leadership in international climate negotiations and other environmental issue areas A large number of GEP studies elaborate rhetoric and actions of aspiring leaders in GEP. In particular, these studies seek to identify which states have sought to provide leadership in international negotiations on the environment, and how they have exercised this role in institutional bargaining processes at the international level. The biggest share of GEP studies generally focus on leadership in environmental governance within the United Nations (UN), and international negotiations on climate under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in general, or the role of the European Union (EU) in those negotiations in particular. Many GEP scholars have also investigated the leadership role of the United States in international environmental regime formation, whereas there are no systematic investigations concerning China’s leadership in GEP. In addition to the states, GEP literature identifies a wide range of other actors as potential leaders (and followers) in environmental issue areas: international organizations, non-governmental organizations, corporations, cities, religious organizations, social movements, politicians, and even individuals.

Since leadership is a social relation, a growing number of scholars have moved to study perceptions of leadership and to conceptualize the relationship between leaders and followers. GEP scholars also identify some qualitative aspects a leader must have in order to attract followers. Many empirical studies show that despite the EU’s aspiration to be a climate leader, it is not unequivocally recognized as such by others. At the same time, it seems that some forms of leadership, especially those based on unilateral action, do not necessarily require followers and recognition by others. In addition to the leader–follower relationship, the motivation of leadership constitutes one of the key controversies among GEP scholars. Some argue that self-interest is a sufficient driver of leadership, while others claim that leaders must act for the common good of a wider constituency (or at least be perceived to do so). To conclude, most scholars studying leadership in GEP regard structural leadership (based on material capabilities and hard power) as an important type of leadership. Much less attention has been paid to the social dimensions of leadership; this is undoubtedly a gap in the literature that prospective studies ought to fill.

Learn more about the publication here.

Russian wildfires

Helsingin sanomat new article “Venäjän suhde metsiinsä poikkeaa paljon Suomesta: Miljoonia hehtaareita on tänäkin vuonna palanut, ja vain murto-osaa paloista on edes yritetty sammuttaa” (Russia’s relationship with its forests differs a lot from Finland: Millions of hectares have been burned this year as well, and only a fraction of the fires have even been tried to be extinguished) discusses Russian forest policy and the massive forest fires going on in the country every summer; this year the burnt area is equal to the size of Czech Republic. Professor Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen was interviewed about this catastrophic situation.

 in Russian federal policy and from the point of view of state revenue, forests are a secondary resource and not as important as oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear power.

“Of course, the forest sector is regionally important in Northwest Russia, Central Siberia and the Russian Far East,” says Tynkkynen.

Professor Tynkkynen also drew parallels with last year’s Amazon rainforest wildfires and finds problematic the difference in the attitude of the international community towards Russia and Brazil and their dealing with the fires:

The European Union considered boycotting Brazilian cattle, partly because of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s forest policy.
Bolsonaro encouraged farmers and ranchers to clear the land by lighting forest fires.
With regard to Russian forest fires, the EU did not challenge the forest policy of the Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration at all and the way how forests are treated as part of other natural resource policies.
“The oil and gas industry are equal risk factors for forest fires, but no one discussed that it should be discussed. No one asked if we would buy gas and oil from Russia or not, ”says Tynkkynen.
Russia has expressed that it will not tolerate interference by foreign powers in its internal affairs. According to Tynkkynen, a comparison between Brazil and Russia shows that in Europe, including Finland, Russia is treated with silk gloves because its reaction is feared.
Read the rest of the article on Helsingin Sanomat website.