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Annual Climate Change Report 2020: Emission reduction targets for the following years likely to be reached, carbon-neutral Finland by 2035 requires further action

Press release 2020-06-17 at 13:52

The Government submitted its second Annual Climate Change Report to Parliament on Wednesday 17 June. According to the report, the measures included in the Climate Change Policy Plan to 2030 are likely to be sufficient to reach the present reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions set for both 2020 and 2030. However, further action and strengthening the measures that are already implemented will be needed to reach a carbon-neutral Finland by 2035.

“It is well possible for Finland to be carbon-neutral by 2035, but to achieve this we must find new means to reduce emissions and strengthen sinks. Important stepping stones include the reform of energy taxation in the autumn budget session and the Government’s mid-term policy review, where the adequacy of the climate measures will also be assessed. The work on updating the different Climate Change Policy Plans in line with the carbon neutrality target is under way. We must find adequate emission reduction measures for the update of the Climate and Energy Strategy and the Medium-Term Climate Change Policy Plan and the new climate change plan for the land use sector,” Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Krista Mikkonen says.

The present objective for Finland is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the non-emissions trading sectors by at least 16% by 2020 and 39% by 2030 from the levels in 2005. The objectives of the Programme of Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s Government include a carbon-neutral Finland by 2035. Carbon neutrality means that emissions and the sinks that sequester carbon are of the same size. In the context of the reform of the Climate Change Act, an emission reduction target to 2030 that corresponds to the path towards carbon neutrality will be included in the act.

The Annual Climate Change Reports are compiled to follow the achievement of these objectives, i.e. the trends in the emissions and sinks in all sectors and, in particular, in the non-emissions trading sectors. The report also deals with climate change adaptation and the impacts of the envisaged policy measures on emissions and considers whether new measures are needed.

Considerable reductions in emissions trading sector in 2019, less decrease in other sectors

According to preliminary data for 2019, the total emissions decreased by about 6% from the previous year. In the emissions trading sector the reduction was 11% and in the non-emissions trading sectors the emissions decreased by 2%, which slightly exceeded the EU’s annual emission allocation.

The emissions trading scheme covers electricity and heat production, metal production, pulp and paper industry, chemical industry, air transport and construction industry. Sectors and operations not covered by the scheme include transport, agriculture and heating of individual buildings.

Some decrease in emissions from the transport sector, but not enough

Emissions in the transport sector decreased from the previous year, but the decrease has not been as fast as was hoped for. The trend in emissions from transport is crucial for the non-emissions trading sectors.

The volumes of emissions from transport depend on three factors: driving distances, energy efficiency of vehicles, and the fuels or propulsion systems used. In urban regions there has been some decreases in driving distances, but on roads and highways and in heavy transport the driving distances have increased. The number of electric cars is growing quite fast in Finland, and by 2030 their number is likely to be much higher than 250,000 electric cars set as the target. The percentage of biofuels has varied from one year to another, which is also reflected in the emissions from the transport sector. The Act on the Promotion of Biofuels in Transport obliges fuel distributors to gradually raise the proportion of biofuels to 30% by 2029.

Forest carbon sink now stronger, emissions from agriculture the same as before

The net carbon sink of the land use sector, i.e. the net amount of carbon dioxide sequestered from the atmosphere, increased by 70% from the previous year. In the land use sector there is considerable variation in the emissions and sinks from one year to another, and the effectiveness of measures and knowledge base in the sector involve greater uncertainties than in other sectors.

The emissions caused by agriculture have stayed about the same. To reach the objectives set in the Medium-term Climate Change Policy Plan, there should be some decrease in the emissions from agriculture by 2030.

In relative terms the highest emission reductions in heating of individual buildings and waste management

In relative terms, the emissions from the heating of individual buildings and waste management have decreased the most from the levels in 2005. In heating emission reductions have been achieved by reducing oil heating and improving the energy efficiency of buildings. Emissions from individual buildings are mainly caused by oil heating.

Emissions from waste management decreased by 5% between 2018 and 2019. Compared to the levels in 2005 the emissions had decreased by as much as 35% by 2018. The main reason for this is the stricter energy legislation, which has led to a decrease in the landfilling of municipal waste and increased the use of waste for energy. The decreasing trend is expected to continue in the near future when the decree that restricts the landfilling of organic waste that entered into force in 2016 will reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from landfills even more and gas production in old landfill sites will continue to decrease.

Municipal climate objectives not yet reflected nationally as emission reductions, carbon footprint of households is growing

Besides the measures in different sectors, the Annual Climate Change Report also discusses cross-sectoral actions to boost the climate work done by municipalities and to curb emissions from consumption.

According to the report, climate work is off to a good start in many Finnish municipalities. Many of them are already committed to ambitious climate objectives and have drawn up strategies and roadmaps towards carbon neutrality. However, differences between municipalities are considerable and there has been no significant reduction in emissions as a whole.

Based on the available data, the carbon footprint of households is again growing. According to a study by the Finnish Environment Institute, emissions from consumption in Finland increased by 12% between 2000 and 2016. This trend is mainly caused by the growth in consumption expenditure. The target set in the Medium-term Climate Change Policy Plan is that people would halve their own carbon footprint by 2030.

Adaptation even more urgent

The Annual Climate Change Report points out that urgent adaptation measures are becoming even more crucial as economic losses caused by the accelerating global warming and extreme weather and water-related events have increased.

Besides the extreme weather and water-related risks, climate change leads to growing risks associated with diseases and pests and spreading of invasive alien species that pose a threat to human, animal and plant health, the natural environment, and livelihoods based on natural resources. Impacts of climate change are also transmitted to Finland indirectly through the flow of raw materials, energy, money and people, and through the logistics chains. Work on climate change adaptation takes place under the National Climate Change Adaptation Plan 2022 adopted in 2014. A mid-term evaluation of the plan was conducted in 2019.

Annual Climate Change Report is based on the Climate Change Act

The Annual Climate Change Reports are based on the Climate Change Act that entered into force in 2015. The content of the report has been modified on the basis of the Parliament report on the matter and feedback from different stakeholders. The key message of this feedback was the report should provide a more comprehensive picture of the trends in emissions and climate change policy. In the previous report the focus was on following the emission trends in the effort-sharing sector and on the implementation of the Medium-term Climate Change Policy Plan. The Annual Climate Change Report will be developed further in line with the reform of the Climate Change Act.

Parliament will start the discussions on the Annual Climate Change Report after the summer holidays.

Inquiries

Riikka Yliluoma, Special Adviser to the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, riikka.yliluoma@ym.fi, tel. +358 50 414 1682

Magnus Cederlöf, Senior Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of the Environment, magnus.cederlof@ym.fi, tel. +358 295 250 060

Riikka Siljander, Senior Specialist, Ministry of the Environment, riikka.siljander@ym.fi, tel. +358 295 250 036