Finns want the international community to take rapid action so that the increase in Earth’s average temperature could be limited to less than two degrees

Press release 2015-09-25 at 12:00

Finns consider international climate negotiations as the most important forum for solving the climate challenge. Most Finns think that the international community should do everything in its power to limit the increase in temperature to two degrees, and four out of five think that ambitious actions are urgently needed, according to the survey commissioned by the Ministry of the Environment from TNS Gallup.

An international climate convention is planned to be achieved in Paris in December for reducing global emissions after 2020. However, views on the effectiveness of the convention are divided: only less than a third of the respondents believe that the convention can be ambitious enough to control climate change.

Common long-term goals are important

Already in 2010, the international climate negotiations agreed upon the common goal of limiting the increase in Earth’s average temperature to less than two degrees. In the opinion of a clear majority, the Paris climate convention should set a long-term emission reduction target that tells how to reach the two degree path.

“The views of the citizens are largely in line with those of the experts. Because the emission reduction commitments given for the agreement do not yet take us to the two degree path, we must be able to come to an agreement in Paris on a common long-term goal as well as regular reviews that would make it possible to increase the countries’ commitments easily, if necessary,” says Kimmo Tiilikainen, the Minister of Agriculture and the Environment.

Stricter emission reductions for rich countries

Countries state the size of the emission reductions they are prepared to make for the Paris climate convention. So far, 72 countries have given their contributions.

In the view of Finns, the contributions of countries should be more ambitious the richer they are. Rich countries should also support the poorer ones in preventing and minimising the damage caused by climate change. However, increasing Finland’s own climate funding divides opinions: the numbers of supporters and opponents of the increase are roughly equal.

Countries’ emission reduction goals should also be proportional to their historical responsibility, meaning that the countries with a history of large emissions should also carry a heavier burden of mitigation. On the other hand, the opinion that emission reductions should be made where it is easiest also gained support.

Finland and the EU as pioneers

The EU has committed to reducing its emissions by at least 40% from the level of 2005 by 2030. 62% of respondents would be ready to increase the EU’s emission reduction goal, if the large emission producers increase their goals. Half of the respondents think that the goal should be increased regardless of the goals of other countries.

Four out of five of the respondents think that Finland should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions from their current level. A little less than half of them think that this should be done even if many other countries do not reduce their emissions.

Most Finns see measures to mitigate climate change as an opportunity to improve our quality of life, and nearly half of the respondents feel that strict climate policy by Finland and the EU would support our competitiveness and export in a broader context. On the other hand, a little over half of the respondents thought that a too strict climate policy might drive investments in heavy industry to countries with a less strict climate policy (so-called carbon leakage).

Knowledge increases concern; concern highlights the urgency of action

As context for the survey, the respondents were also asked factual questions about the scientific background of climate change. Most Finns estimated the increase in average temperature that has already occurred in Finland (2.1 degrees) and the increase forecasts (4–6 degrees by the end of the century) to be less than they really are. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), human influence on climate change is 95% certain. However, only a quarter of Finns know this.

A clear connection was seen between the level of knowledge, concern and readiness to act: the more familiar the respondents were with the scientific background of climate change, the more concerned they were and the stronger and more urgent actions they were prepared for.

The difficulty of responding is emphasised by the large share of “Unsure” responses, which was 10–30% overall. 1,015 Finns responded to the survey in August 2015. The margin of error is approximately 3 percentage points in either direction.

Further information

Mika Sulkinoja, Director, GreenStream Network, tel. +358 50 357 1723, firstname.lastname@greenstream.fi

Special Adviser to the Minister Anne Kettunen, Ministry of the Environment, tel. +358 46 923 5169, firstname.lastname@ymparisto.fi

Counsellor Harri Laurikka, Ministry of the Environment, tel. +358 295 250 156,
firstname.lastname@ymparisto.fi, twitter.com/paaneuvottelija