Light at the end of the tunnel?

UEF Bulletin 2016

The Paris Climate Agreement calls for an energy revolution this century, suggests Professor Kati Kulovesi. Thanks to an ERC Starting Grant, among other things, her research group addresses international climate change law from multidisciplinary perspectives.

The UN Climate Change Conference held in Paris last December resulted in a historic Climate Agreement, whereby all countries agreed to reduce their emissions in order to limit global warming to below 2 – or even below 1.5 – degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial times.

According to Professor of International Law Kati Kulovesi of the University of Eastern Finland, the goal is more ambitious than expected.

“The Climate Agreement is a good thing, but there has been debate over whether it is realistic to achieve the goal of two degrees Celsius, let alone 1.5 degrees. However, what is significant about the Paris outcome is the fact that it asks the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, to chart, by 2018, the measures needed to achieve the goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius. There are ways to achieve this goal, but it will take increasing political effort,” Kulovesi says.

The Paris Climate Agreement is international and legally binding, and it is sought to be enforced from 2020 onwards. The Climate Agreement is the first of its kind in that all countries have agreed to reduce their emissions, and that, according to Kulovesi, is significant. 

“The earlier system was based on a clear divide between developing countries and industrial countries. Now this divide is smaller. All countries are required to prepare an emissions reduction plan and to abide by it. The emissions reduction goals need to be adjusted in an increasingly ambitious direction every five years.”

According to Kulovesi, reaching the goals of the Climate Agreement calls for “an energy revolution during this century”.

“As fossil fuels are gradually abandoned, we need to embrace alternative energy solutions. This is the most effective way to reduce emissions. How we build our houses and heat them are among the things we need to reconsider,” Kulovesi points out.


Kulovesi’s research group was awarded a five-year ERC Starting Grant of the European Research Council for international climate law research.

Their ClimaSlow project seeks to respond to challenges posed by climate change globally. Bringing together law and natural sciences, the project focuses on ways to reduce short-lived climate forcer emissions in developing countries in order to mitigate climate change and improve local air quality.

“The ERC Starting Grant amounts to 1.5 million euros, allowing us to hire three new researchers for the project. The funding also makes it possible for me to devote a larger share of my time to research and leading the project.”

“We’ve secured good resources to carry out top-level international research for the upcoming five-year period,” Kulovesi sums up.

Text Risto Löf Photo Fredrik Rubensson

Photo: Air pollution covers the city of Harbin in China.