Climate citizenship

Citizens’ access to information and public participation are important elements of a just climate policy

Climate citizenship sets out citizens’ opportunities to act and participate in both mitigating climate change and adapting to it. An essential component of climate citizenship is also the opportunity to influence climate policy decisions at various levels.

This is directly linked with the fairness of climate policy and its perceived acceptability.

The acceptability and fairness of climate policy is strongly influenced by citizens’ opportunities to have access to information, as well as influence and participate in climate policy processes. This can be both supported and limited by legal instruments and their interpretations. There is room for improvement in the current situation, and the 2035Legitimacy project seeks to find ways to enhance citizens’ access to information and opportunities to participate.

While Finland has adopted an ambitious carbon neutrality goal and its Constitution guarantees everyone the opportunity to influence decisions on their living environment, practice shows that climate change arguments often play a lesser role or are completely ignored in legal and administrative proceedings.

Partly due to legal barriers, there have been no climate-related legal proceedings in Finland, though they are increasingly taking place in many other countries.

Current Finnish climate law does not provide citizens with extensive opportunities to influence climate policy planning and the implementation of plans and goals based on the law.

Climate citizenship is realised in everyday life individually and collectively through climate-friendly choices, civic activism or other communal activities.

Climate citizenship sets out citizens’ opportunities to act both to mitigate climate change and adapt to it. An essential component of climate citizenship is also the opportunity to influence climate policy decisions at different levels.

In a unique way, the project will link research and discussion on climate citizenship with legal research on public participation and the importance of climate issues in environmental matters.

Little research has been carried out on the opportunities of Finns to have access to information about international and EU level climate policy processes and to influence them.

The project seeks to fill this gap through a comprehensive examination of the factors influencing the legitimacy of climate policy, also taking supranational decision-making levels and processes into account.

The project seeks to fill this gap through a comprehensive examination of the factors influencing the legitimacy of climate policy, also taking supranational decision-making levels and processes into account.

The EU is the key source for Finland’s climate policy goals and measures. From the perspective of public participation, the EU’s climate and energy policy falls under the Aarhus Convention, just like it does at a national level in the signatory countries. Opportunities for participation are also governed by several special laws.

The 2035Legitimacy project will generate knowledge on the implementation of the Aarhus Convention in the EU, especially as regards access to information.

The EU is currently working on revising the regulation concerning the Convention, so the project research will be able to comment on the progress of the revision efficiently along the way, focusing specifically on the legitimacy of climate policy.

The project will also generate knowledge on the usefulness of the European Citizens’ Initiative on improving participation rights in EU climate law and policy processes. The project’s third EU law perspective is related to the implementation of the rights secured by the Aarhus Convention in the EU court processes.

Revising the regulation on the Aarhus Convention does not eliminate all threats to accessing the rights present in EU climate law.

The particular added value generated by the research conducted in the project lies in producing empirical knowledge of relevant EU level application practices. This has not been done before.

The legitimacy implications of international climate policy are also mainly procedural practices and rights. The project will generate knowledge of the opportunities provided by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to engage citizens and other non-state actors.

This vertical relationship between influencing and legitimacy in climate policy decision-making from the international to the national level is a significant new approach in climate law research.

The project will also explore opportunities to enhance the legitimacy of international climate policy through national means, by strengthening the flow of information and transparency, for example.