FFI survey: Majority of Finns demand green recovery and climate criteria for COVID-19 subsidies

More than half of the respondents to Finance Finland’s (FFI) public opinion survey held the view that climate change action should be prioritised in post-COVID-19 economic recovery. An even greater number said that action to combat climate change should be one of the criteria for the business subsidies granted to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus crisis.

Although the coronavirus crisis has changed the world – perhaps permanently – it has by no means cancelled out climate change. The goals of green and sustainable finance should not be given up even as we struggle through the pandemic.

In the survey, younger respondents in particular agreed with the claim that climate change matters should be prioritised in post-COVID-19 economic recovery and revitalisation. Among the respondents aged 18 to 21 years, 57% either fully or partially agreed with the claim. Among all respondents, the figure was 52%.

“Younger generations are more concerned with climate change, as they will be the ones to witness its full force in the future. Our economic recovery plans therefore need to look beyond the coronavirus crisis: climate consideration is still relevant for financial sector risk management, as well, because a company that manages its climate responsibility well will also perform better in the future”, comments FFI’s Deputy Managing Director Esko Kivisaari.

The Finnish government agrees with Kivisaari. Interviewed by FFI in June, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Krista Mikkonen pointed out that the Finnish government’s fourth supplementary budget proposal, which introduced measures to support the post-COVID recovery and revitalisation of the economy, included many environmentally sustainable projects.

“We’re talking multi-billion investments into rails, public transportation, road infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists, wind power, camping areas, forest conservation, as well as measures that support local government and households make energy-efficient changes”, Mikkonen explained.

Unsustainable businesses must not be artificially revived

FFI calls for long-term perspective in the planning of business subsidies. The view is shared by 57% of the survey’s respondents: they believe climate change mitigation should be one of the criteria for COVID-19 subsidies granted to struggling companies. The requirement for climate action was especially supported by adolescents, women and residents in the Helsinki metropolitan area.

“Public subsidies mustn’t be used to revive business operations that are not viable in the long term in light of sustainable development requirements”, Kivisaari asserts.

“We must discontinue the public financing of targets that are environmentally detrimental, or we can say goodbye to any dreams of a carbon-neutral, sustainable and resource-wise country.”

But how do we decide between environmentally sustainable and unsustainable business? According to Kivisaari, the EU sustainability taxonomy, a project which is now nearing completion, will provide a useful framework for the decisions. Public authorities should be required to report on the sustainability of their stimulus measures.

The public opinion survey was commissioned by FFI and undertaken by Norstat Finland in early June. The respondents included 1,010 Finns aged between 18 and 84. Quotas for the respondents were set in relation to the population of Finland in terms of gender, age, and place of residence.