Highlighting research | 27/11/2017

Reliable environmental information vital for policymakers 

Photo: Aapo Mannelin

The purpose of Forum for Environmental Information is to bring important results of academic research on the environment to the attention of decision makers. When policymakers are able to prevent environmental pollution, they simultaneously avoid the costs incurred by environmental restoration or the treatment of health hazards.  

Forum for Environmental Information strives to raise interest in environmental information among politicians and public administrators. The Forum provides information in layman’s terms, for example, on the environmental impact of organic farming and the role of organic products in sustainable global food security. It also extends an invitation to join the discussion on practical issues that affect the lives of all citizens, such as the role of cities in combating climate change. 

The advocacy work encompasses a wide range of methods. Most importantly, the Forum organises seminars in which researchers and policymakers can engage in dialogue on environmental issues. An example of this is Ympäristödialogeja (‘Environmental  dialogues’) discussion series, organised in cooperation with the Maj and Tor Nessling Foundation and Kone Foundation.  

“Our various events often attract very different target groups. The events are attended by representatives of, for example, ministries, economic interest groups, parliamentary groups, and ELY centres”, says Kirsi-Marja Lonkila, Coordinator at Forum for Environmental Information. 

In addition to the seminars, the Forum publishes a report series that helps fill a gap in the availability of Finnish-language environmental information. Massive amounts of environmental research is produced in Finland every year, but most publications are in English, the global language of science.  

Lonkila believes that discussions on the relationship between science and policymaking have increased since the founding of the Forum, and many new operators have entered the field. According to Lonkila, Forum for Environmental Information has found its role and demonstrated the importance of its work.  

“Our strength is that we are able to combine the perspectives of researchers and policymakers as well as raise new environmental topics for discussion. As a result of our events, public administration has launched investigations aimed at improving the information available to their experts”. 

In addition to organising seminars that bring together researchers and policymakers, Lonkila feels it is important to promote a public discussion that is based on scientific knowledge. 

“Environmental effects should be viewed more widely as a part of society as a whole. Environmental pollution may cause financial losses in the form of health hazards and costs incurred by environmental restoration efforts. In the case of heavily lobbied issues, environmental aspects are often side-lined in policymaking”, Lonkila explains. 

Currently, Lonkila is particularly interested in research on the prevention of biodiversity loss and in increasing discussion about the topic. During the past year, this theme has been approached from different perspectives, and the Forum has sought to offer input to the discussion. 

“Traditional methods of conservation have been unable to stop the ongoing loss of biodiversity. It is, therefore, important to develop new solutions, such as ecological compensation. This solution is an undertaking by individuals and companies to offset the ecologic damage they have caused. At the same time, discussion on the loss of biodiversity can be reframed by, for example, emphasising how nature that is diverse and present in everyday urban life can improve the health of all people”. 

Forum for Environmental Information was founded in 2010 in cooperation between the Finnish Ministry of the Environment, the Finnish Environment Institute, the University of Helsinki, the Maj and Tor Nessling Foundation, and Ympäristöareena ry. The Forum was later joined by the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities and the University of Turku. Kone Foundation has provided funding for the Forum since 2014 in cooperation with the Maj and Tor Nessling Foundation.