Theory meets reality in Finland’s energy security and climate change policies. In this episode with Emma Hakala, Senior Research Fellow, at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, and member of the BIOS Research Unit. We gain a greater understanding of what a cascade of crises around climate change looks like and the advantage of gaining foresight on these events before their impact is felt. We also learn about the quick shift in Finland’s position on NATO membership and the changed relationship with Russia. This episode addresses the changing climate and geopolitical realities of Finnish efforts to go zero carbon while shifting away from Russia.

Welcome to the My Energy 2050 podcast where we speak to the people building a clean energy system by 2050. I’m your host Michael LaBelle. 

A second title for this episode is the Cascading Challenges and Solutions for Finland. As you’ll learn in the first half of this episode Finland is looking for ways to address climate change and become more adaptable. However, what was once thought of a solution with its forest acting as both fuel and a carbon sink, is now emerging as an inverted solution, with its forested carbon sink burned which is actually adding to its carbon emissions. How Finland addresses climate change requires a strong awareness of interlinked feedback.

The second part of the episode brings in an International Relations perspective. Emma tells us about the impact that Russia’s war in Ukraine has had on Russian-Finnish relations. This includes Finland’s application for NATO membership and a new security relationship through NATO and closer ties with the United States.

The importance of this episode lies in understanding the shift Finland has experienced since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the explicit NATO alignment it now holds. Ambiguity is out the door. A new security line is emerging and we should be aware of how this new security pact changes relations with Russia. In addition, what were once important joint projects with Russia are almost all frozen. We can claim this as a win for EU sanctions, but it is important to be aware that some issues like water and other environmental issues still require a regional approach. Security may dominate current relations but we need to maintain the awareness that future cooperation will need to occur on environmental issues – when the time is right.

My take on this interview with Emma is that by learning about Finland’s energy and security challenges we can appreciate the importance of regional cooperation. Even in a Nordic country like Finland with a small population and a vast land mass, meeting climate change goals is still a real challenge. What is unique about our conversation is the integration of the new security order with Russia and the concept of cascading crises and events. These are set to compound even more in our changing environment and security situation. We should not underestimate the challenges and unpredictability the war between Russia and Ukraine holds for the NATO alliance. Gaining some insight into Russia’s neighbors and their actions can assist how we as researchers and analysts assess the longer-term impact of the war.

In episode 69 I spoke with Emma’s BIOS Research Unit colleague Tere Vaden. I suggest checking out that episode on energy and philosophy to understand more about the Finnish perspective and how climate change is changing both policies and practices in Finland and humanity’s relationship with energy. It is already proving to be a top podcast episode.

For those not in the know, – We are launching the Repowering Leadership in European Energy and Food Summer School 2023. This is done with the Central European University, Summer University program, and with the Open Society University Network. You can find a link to the call for applications in the show notes. The application deadline is February 14th, 2023.

We have an amazing line-up of instructors, Margarita Balmaceda, author of Russian Energy Chains and a past podcast guest. Alberto Potoschnig, the former director of ACER and at the Florence School of Regulation. We have Tim Benton and Leslie Vinjamuri from Chatham House along with EU energy law scholars, Kim Talus and Sirja-Leena Penttinen of the University of Eastern Finland and Tulane Law School. We also have instructors on energy communities, agriculture, and leadership. Check out for a full list, or see in the show notes.

A final note, this interview was done for my 2022 role as an Open Society University Network, Senior Fellow at Chatham House, The Royal Institute of International Affairs. Funding was generously provided to produce the podcasts for the episodes recorded in 2022. I have a nice backlog of episodes to still get out, so these will be released over the next few weeks.

Episode Summary

Produced by ChatGPI based on the transcript – experimental

Dr. Emma Hakala is a senior research fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs and a member of the Bios Research Unit, with a focus on climate and security issues. She became interested in the field through a coincidental opportunity to work on a research project on environmental security in the Balkans, and then decided to pursue her PhD in the topic. Dr. Hakala notes that the connection between climate change and security is multifaceted, and can be divided into three categories: direct impacts from physical climate change, such as extreme weather events and their effects on health and infrastructure; indirect impacts, such as conflicts over resources and migration patterns; and structural impacts, such as changes to the global political and economic system. She also discusses the importance of considering both short-term and long-term impacts when addressing climate and security issues.

Dr Hakala discusses the importance of preparation and effective responses in crisis situations and notes that there is a lot of research on this topic. In terms of climate security threats to Finland, the speaker notes that the country is in a good position compared to other parts of the world, but there is still a level of complacency about the impacts of climate change. The main threats to Finland are linked to international relations and the country’s place in the world, as well as the functioning of the international system.

The expansion of NATO to the border of Russia and the impact is discussed. The expansion has resulted in a strategic loss for Russia and a new geopolitical reality for the country. The conversation also touches on the issue of fossil fuels and the reliance of the Baltic region on Russian gas, coal, and oil. It is noted that this situation has given the Nordic countries an incentive to move away from fossil fuels and transition to more sustainable energy sources. However, there is a risk that the focus on replacing Russian fossil fuels may lead to a lack of consideration for the most sustainable solutions in the short term. It is emphasized that it is important to find energy sources in the short term, but also to make decisions with a view towards the longer term energy transition in order to avoid a continued dependency on fossil fuels.


finland, security, russia, impacts, climate, energy, nato, eu, cascading, climate change, country, situation, finnish, cooperation, war, episode, nordic countries

Transcript AI

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Introduction to this episode.


What’s on this episode of the podcast?


The three categories of impacts of climate change that also have implications on security.


How do you formulate a solution to these cascading events?


What are the threats to Finland right now?


What has been the impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine?


How does Russia perceive this?


How well does Finland’s plans for climate neutrality look in the future?


Finland’s relationship with the United States.


What’s happening in other countries with energy prices.


Hakala, Emma, and Vadim Kononenko. “Re-Securitizing Climate: From ‘climate Security’ to ‘Ecology of Peace.’” Finnish Institute of International Affairs, September 2022.

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Dr. Michael LaBelle is an associate professor at Central European University in the Department of Environmental Sciences. He produces the My Energy 2050 podcast to change how we communicate and improve the energy transition.