04.12.2009. Russian journalists study Finland’s experience in energy efficiency, use of alternative sources of energy and environmental protection
In preparation to the UN Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen, UNDP, in cooperation with the Russian Regional Ecological Centre NGO, initiated a trip of a group of Russian journalists to Finland. The purpose of the trip, sponsored by the Finnish government, was to acquaint them with the country’s experience in developing climate change mitigation and adaptation policies and measures, including the promotion of sustainable energy and advancement of low-carbon approaches.
Why Finland? Because for the United Nations in Russia, one of the focuses is the impact of climate change on Russia’s Arctic, the territory most affected by this phenomena. And to promote the climate change agenda, in particular in these regions, it already organised a seminar on the topic for journalists from the North West Federal District of Russia last October. A field trip to a Nordic country was considered to be a useful practical step to help them learn from the experience of similar territories.
The group, which travelled to Finland, included representatives of several leading St. Petersburg printed editions and a radio journalists from Karelia, who participated in the seminar, as well as a REN TV crew from Moscow. The Finnish partners combined a very intensive and varied agenda - from excursions to energy-efficient and ecologically clean enterprises and renewable energy sites , to meetings with local stakeholders involved in climate change and environmental issues as well as with local journalists experienced in climate change - related topics.
The trip started with the visit to Nuuksio National Park, which is situated right at the doorstep of Helsinki. Despite its proximity to the busy city life, visitors there can experience true Finnish wilderness. This is one of 35 national parks in Finland visited by almost 2 mln people annually. In many of them ecotourism is well developed , like it is in Nuuksio National Park, where a private businessman rents part of the territory and organises facilities for tourists.
Journalists learned about the so called Metsähallitus - a state enterprise that administers more than 12 million hectares of state-owned land and water areas. Metsähallitus provides natural resources sector services to a diverse customer base, from private individuals to major companies.
Nuclear energy has played a major role in Finnish electricity production. Since 2007, the proportion of nuclear electricity totaled 25% of electricity consumption and about 9% of domestic production. Increased nuclear power production is expected to play an important role in meeting greenhouse gas emission target set for Finland by the Kyoto Protocol. In this context, it was interesting to visit the Olkiluoto nuclear plant and to learn about how its safety is ensured and environmental impact is assessed.
One of the most interesting sites, which the delegation saw, was the Katri Vala power plant.
The facility excavated under the Katri Vala Park houses the world's largest heat pump plant, producing district heat and cooling in a single process. Various parts of a similar type of production are used elsewhere in the world, but so far have not been combined in this way.
This was a good example of power generation with emission-free renewable energy sources.
The journalists were acquainted with the work of two very different enterprises - Russian owned Norilsk Nickel Harjavalta, the only nickel refining plant in Finland, and a confectionary factory of Fazer Group on the outskirts of Helsinki. Both companies are focused on compliance with all social and environmental responsibility principles in the various countries in which it operate, which is essential for ensuring sustainable and efficient business development.
Fazer is one of the biggest bakery companies in Russia.
The agenda included meeings with environmental experts from the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), which is both a research institute and a centre for environmental expertise, and with civil society organisations, which work in the environment protection area. Two of them, which the delegation visited, the John Nurminen Foundation and the Foundation for a Living Baltic Sea implement projects aimed at the reduction of eutrophication of the Baltic Sea and increase of the environmental awareness of its condition.
The last but not the least important topic covered during the trip was the use of solar energy as an alternative and fully renewable energy source generating zero emissions. The journalists visited the ‘NAPS Systems Oy’ company, which provides systems and services related to solar power, and has already done it in 50 countries. They learnt that if 0.015% of the globe is covered with solar panels, the world energy needs would be fully satisfied. Though in northern countries, such as Finland, the solar energy could account only for a small portion of energy production, it is still popular among private consumers. Journalists were taken to see an apartment house in one of Helsinki districts, where solar panels serve as balcony screens and allow the owners of the building to save electricity and to even supply the excess to the city network.
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