Laura Fagerlund is the Head of the International Committee of the Swedish Youth of Finland, the youth organization to the liberal party Swedish People’s Party. She is 24 years old and studying Political Science. She has been active in politics for around four years, mostly on the global arena, focusing on sustainable development.
Where does your interest in policy, politics and especially the elections to the European Parliament come from? What is your main motivation to engage yourself?
Laura Fagerlund: I was introduced to international youth politics through a friend. My friend and I share the same passion for climate change policy, and she also introduced me to her international network of young climate change activists. I noticed how beneficial it is to be active in politics, both professionally and personally, so I continued down that path. Now, being active in international youth organizations is a huge part of my life. My interest in the European Parliament comes from my belief in international cooperation, and this particular election is interesting because of Finland’s upcoming EU presidency, Brexit, and member states’ cooperation to reach the 1,5 target. I am motivated to engage myself because I want to work in an international environment. Working internationally gives me perspective and develops my skills in intercultural communication. I also truly believe that international cooperation is the only way forward and the only way to reach sustainability.
What are your concrete suggestions regarding climate change policy at EU level towards candidates to the European Parliament? What would a candidate need to promise you to make you vote for her/his party?
Laura Fagerlund: Firstly, I think it is extremely important that everybody cooperates, no matter what their party membership is or what their ideology is. Combating climate change is something that everybody must agree on, and there is no time to make this a partisan issue. Secondly, I hope that effort will be put into developing the Emissions Trading System. It must be enlarged, so it also includes agriculture, transport, buildings and waste disposal. The system needs to be global. Thirdly, the EU should also put effort in a smooth transition to electric and biogas-fuelled cars. Fourthly, it is fundamental to take the diversity of the European Union into consideration. From the Finnish perspective, we need to support healthy forests and a healthy Baltic Sea. We must also realize a just transition for the Sámi people. Lastly, a harmonized European energy market must be implemented.
My EP candidate must promise to work across all parties to reach a path towards the 1,5 target. The candidate must understand the urgency of reaching sustainable development, and she/he must have a dialogue with all relevant stakeholders and experts to implement policies. The candidate also needs to bring attention to the importance of a just transition.
What are the “hot” topics regarding climate change in your country? How do they potentially affect the upcoming Elections?
Laura Fagerlund: We recently had national elections, and one of the main topics was climate change. Young people have been demonstrating in front of the Finnish Parliament because they want Finland to be more ambitious in reaching the 1,5 target. Many parties have embraced this, and eight out of nine parties in the Parliament made an agreement on how to combat climate change. Unfortunately, a right populist party did not agree on this, and also turned the topic of climate change into a classic “the people vs the elite” discussion. While many parties focus on the importance of healthy carbon sinks, circular economy, environmentally friendly heating in buildings, and a sharing economy, this populist party demonises the other parties. According to the populist party, the other parties put too much responsibility on the “common Finn”, even though there are other countries with much higher GHG emissions that should do more than Finland does. I believe this discussion will continue during the EU elections. Populists will turn the issue around and ask questions such as: Who is responsible for the GHG emissions? Does Finland need to do more, even though there are other countries that are even less ambitious than Finland?
What should young people keep in mind while making their decision in the election to the European Parliament?
Laura Fagerlund: Young people should remember the benefits of the European Union, and how much the policies implemented in the European Union affects them. I think it is important that open-minded, competent candidates with skills in networking and leadership are elected. Young people should keep in mind which values are important for them and make their decisions according to that.
In your opinion, is giving a vote enough?
Laura Fagerlund: Yes, it is. Some people are less interested in politics, and don’t want to be active in the field. Other people are very interested in politics, and are active in many more ways than voting. It is completely up to oneself to decide whether they want to be active in other ways than voting in elections.
Thank you for the interview!