Can countries with different agendas unite in the face of climate change? How do you reach an agreement with the aim of limiting global warming when you have the countries whose economy thrives on fossil fuel industry and the countries that suffer most from the said industry’s consequences at the same table? Reaching a consensus on climate issues among countries with different interests has always seemed like a miracle which I did not expect to happen. Until it did. To get a better look at how it all came about, I went to see the film Guardians of the Earth at Helsinki Documentary Film Festival – DocPoint 2018.

Guardians of the Earth, directed by Filip Antoni Malinowski, tells the behind the scenes story of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 21, which was the 21st yearly meeting that finally resulted in the Paris Agreement, the first legally binding global climate deal. 195 countries and 20 000 negotiators took part in the climate change negotiations that lasted for a week and a half in Paris, France, in December 2015.

In the film, we get to see the story through the perspectives of several people from both developed and developing nations. Most of the time you feel like a fly on the wall watching things unfold. You get to see and hear the experts, activists, politicians and celebrities arguing their cause. Ultimately the goal has to be, as Laurent Fabius, the president of the summit, points out: there cannot be any country saying ‘no’.

Getting a glimpse of the mechanics of global negotiations was definitely one of the most interesting aspects of the film. If you haven’t been in global negotiations – and I’m pretty sure not many of us have – , you probably have no idea how they work. I had no previous knowledge of them so I didn’t know what to expect. To see the negotiators that represent different countries or groups of countries working towards an agreement, was a revelation of sorts. Still, at times it felt like saving the planet was not at the forefront of the summit. There was a lot of nitpicking over language of the agreement draft which made it look like as if some of the nations were trying to weaken their obligations. On several occasions I wanted to stomp my feet, facepalm or shout at the screen when sitting in the cinema audience.

What countries wanted to achieve, seemed to differ based on their wealth and link to fossil fuel industry. I was surprised that in the talks, the issues circled around economy and national self-interests instead of saving the planet and truly committing to taking action against climate change. You couldn’t be nothing but sympathetic towards the plight of the small island states such as the Seychelles. When your land mass is slowly being devoured by the rising sea level, your concern is not how to keep fossil fuel based economic growth of developed nations intact but how to save your people’s lives. I felt sad that the vulnerability of the nations most affected by global warming appeared to be often overlooked by those whose actions contributed to climate change. At times, solidarity seemed to be trumped by self-interests.

Despite having an aura of seriousness, Guardians of the Earth had its emotional moments. You could see the friendships of people who had worked towards the agreement for years, and you could also see the toll the fight was taking on the participants. Even though climate issues are a big deal for me, I could feel the enormity of the matter in a different manner than before. When the clock ticked forward and only a handful of hours were left to reach an agreement that was going to shape all our futures, the strain was quite visible in the faces we saw on screen. I was only sitting in the audience but at that moment, even for me, any other problem felt trivial in the face of losing our future.

It has been two years since the climate summit and it still feels a bit unreal that the countries actually came together and managed to seal a climate deal. Since then the US withdrawal from the agreement has thrown a shadow over it and it has made me think what it might do to our joint progress in the future if a major polluter of the world is not doing its part for the good of the planet. That being said, Guardians of the Earth left one very thoughtful viewer in its wake – uneasy but hopeful at the same time.

DocPoint 2018 took place from Jan 29th to Feb 4th 2018 in Helsinki, Finland and in Tallinn, Estonia.

Written for Global Senses
Text by Tiina Junno


The photo was taken with solar powered camera. Photo: Okko Meinilä

I have been following Climate Street since the spring 2016. My first thought when I found out about the project was: “This is interesting.” I was curious to see the residents and businesses of the street named as climate street trying out new things that aimed towards positively affecting both the living and working conditions of people as well as bringing forth ideas to fight climate change in the future. We at Global Senses were also thinking about participating in the Climate Street agile pilot competition last year but did not have enough time at that point. And of course, I was rooting for the project because I like to follow climate-friendly things happening in my city.

Climate Street is a project that aims towards climate change adapted low carbon city. The project was realised in Helsinki and Vantaa. Since I live in Helsinki, Iso Roobertinkatu street which was the climate street in Helsinki, made me curious. I wanted to find out what kind of collaborations, new ideas and events were taking place.

Both the residents and businesses at Iso Roobertinkatu street seem to have had interesting experiences. Climate Street organised a competition for agile pilot projects and then funded three projects which were realised in 2016. The residents of the street also got to try out appliances that saved energy and/or water in their homes. Apartment blocks got energy audits to find out the energy-saving possibilities of an apartment building. Real estate companies and housing co-operatives on the street monitored the buildings’ emissions and one apartment block even installed a solar power plant on their roof. In Climate Street bootcamp, businesses searched for ideas on how to move their businesses towards low carbon direction.

The residents of one building at Iso Roobertinkatu street generated ideas about cosier living conditions in Happy Housing Cooperatives Workshop organised by Dodo, a Finnish environmental organisation. Some of the better living conditions described by the residents were “empty cellar space turned into a wine cellar, cosy sitting area in the garden, beautiful and energy-efficient lighting systems” (Climate Street). Who wouldn’t want something like that for their living quarters?

Two of the three Climate Street funded agile pilots were concentrated on food. Zero Food Waste fought against food waste at supermarkets whereas Sustainable Meal helped restaurants and event planners to create and sell sustainable meals. The third pilot was Resource Efficient Existing Buildings (REEB) that aimed to develop new digital tools in order to help increase the space utilisation rate and advance the sharing of spaces, resource effectiveness and circular economy in the existing building stock.

In 2017, the project organised a competition for an ecologically efficient terrace. Helsinki city was looking for ways to lengthen the the restaurants’ and bars’ short summer terrace season here in the north and invited businesses, organisations, designers, engineers, architects and students to participate. The aim was to build the world’s first ecologically efficient terrace in Helsinki during the summer 2017.

What intrigued me the most of all in Climate Street were the energy saving devices and servives that the people living or working on Iso Roobertinkatu street got to test. I used to be wary of smart devices, and IoT (Internet of Things) is still a concept I am trying to grasp. But if I could control my home when I am away, for example, to see if my coffee maker or stove is on or off, I would have a lot more peace of mind. This is what Cozify does. It is a wireless smart home hub with which you can control your (smart) devices, safety of the house and lighting among other things. The other tested service that I found interesting was Fourdeg Smart Heating Cloud Service which maintains the desired temperatures in the rooms of an apartment with the help of smart thermostats. This kind of system would have been great to have back in my student days when I lived in apartments where you had to adjust the temperatures again and again with thermostats that did not want to co-operate.

The project is coming to an end this summer. The latests news from Climate Street tells us that the winners of the eco terrace competition have been chosen. While I wait for the ecologically efficient terraces to rise up in the city, I can go back to all those ideas that have taken root while I was following the project. Maybe I will try energy saving devices in my own home, explore what it’s like to control your coffee maker from afar or do my part in reducing food waste.

Written for Global Senses
Text by Tiina Junno

Sources: Climate Street, City of Helsinki