Leaving No One Lost in Transition: Citizens and the Legitimacy of Finland’s Transition to a Carbon Neutral Welfare State - Impacts of international and EU climate policy processes

Duration: 2020-2023
Funder: Academy of Finland & European Commission

Research on the transparency of the EU’s decision-making processes – or rather the lack thereof – is increasingly available, yet the same does not apply to questions regarding climate change. The volume of research on the EU, its climate law and policy and the Aarhus Convention (an international environmental and human rights convention covering access to information, participation rights of the public in decision-making, and access to justice) does not compare to the importance of the issue. 

Though the EU’s poor performance regarding its obligations under the Convention has been critically reviewed, no research exists on the realisation of the rights under the Convention within the EU’s climate law and policy framework. At present the EU’s regulation under the Aarhus Convention are under review, which increases the relevance of the research project.

International climate policies are implemented in countries that have ratified the climate agreement in cooperation with administrative authorities and mechanisms. The Paris Climate Agreement contains a specific transparency provision, which relies on reports and evaluations of states’ climate policies, their progress and sufficiency.

International law is predominantly state centric, which leaves citizens and their participation  secondary or acknowledges them only as actors within the national context. The EU has also relied on the argument that citizen participation rights are fullfilled in the Member States to justify the lukewarm implementation of its duties under the Aarhus Convention. These national frameworks are however indirect and slow pathways, whose effectiveness leaves much to be criticised.

These legitimacy challenges are also relevant to Finland and Finnish citizens’ possibilities to influence the (policy) processes. Therefore, the project focuses firstly on input legitimacy in processes that are particularly relevant for Finland’s climate neutrality transition. Specifically, it does so by scrutinizing how these processes have promoted the Aarhus Convention’s three core principles. It will also examine possibilities to take action at the Finnish national level, through information-sharing, stakeholder consultations and forming government positions.

Secondly, the project analyses how the Aarhus principles are applied at EU level and how their application can be improved as well as the possibility of using the European Citizens’ Initiative to promote climate goals.

Team members
Päivi Leino-Sandberg (UH)
Tiina Paloniitty (UH)
Harro van Asselt (UEF)

The project is part of the 2035Legitimacy Consortium’s project on Leaving No One Lost in Transition: Citizens and the Legitimacy of Finland’s Transition to a Carbon Neutral Welfare State implemented in cooperation with researchers from the University of Eastern Finland, the Institute for Economic Research, the Finnish Environment Institute and the University of Helsinki, funded by the Academy of Finland, which focuses on the legitimacy of Finland’s planned transition towards a carbon-neutral welfare state by 2035, as well as the Jean Monnet Network GOVTRAN (Governing the EU’s Climate and Energy Transition in Turbulent Times), funded by the European Commission.

For further details see the 2035Legitimacy project page.