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Interview: Mikael Hildén, Chair of Expert Group on black carbon and methane

"The work to reduce black carbon emissions in particular provides unambiguous win-win opportunities."


What is your background, and how is that you came to be the Chair of the EGBCM?

My original background is in fisheries research, or more generally research on the sustainable management of natural resources, but for the past 25 years or so I have worked in the field of environmental assessment and evaluation of plans and policies. As head of the Climate Change Programme at the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) since 2010, the focus of my work has been policies related to climate change and resource efficiency and how they contribute to new solutions for mitigation and adaptation nationally and internationally. I’m also the part-time director of one of the Research Programmes of the Strategic Research Council of the Academy of Finland, searching for ways to achieve transitions to greater sustainability. My work has also brought me into contact with issues related to black carbon, methane, and all other greenhouse gas emissions. Those planning the Finnish Chairmanship of the Arctic Council probably spotted me as a suitable generalist with experiences from many walks of life. After some hesitation (due to many other commitments), I decided to accept the invitation to this very exciting work.

Have you spent much time in the Arctic? If so, what’s the most memorable experience that you’ve had during that time?

I’m not a highly Arctic person, unless you consider the whole of Finland Arctic. But I have visited the ‘real Arctic’ several times both in Finland and other Arctic countries. The vastness and the open landscapes are probably what strikes every visitor.

What is it about the work that takes place in the EGBCM that most inspires or excites you?

There are several reasons for excitement, both at an intellectual level and at the level of searching for solutions to one of humanity's greatest challenges. Part of the intellectual excitement comes from the opportunity to compile and examine information on an issue that is gaining prominence but that has been partly neglected in the discussion of climate change. But, in addition, I find that the opportunity to contribute to the necessary knowledge base that can help countries to address both climate change and health issues is very stimulating and encouraging, as we are dealing with solutions that can yield results very quickly (in comparison with many other measures to mitigate climate change). The work to reduce black carbon emissions in particular provides unambiguous win-win opportunities. The EGBCM can stimulate the upscaling of solutions and learning across countries. This I find very exciting.

When you were considering the position of Chair, what – in general – made the idea appealing to you? What made this role attractive?

The opportunity to contribute to real solutions in a pressing issue while at the same time learning about complex questions from top-level experts makes the role of a Chair very rewarding. The first report of the EGBCM shows that it has strong expertise and has created a firm base on which to continue building the base for action.