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Sustainable recovery working group: Post-crisis measures to boost investments in emission reductions, impacts of all measures on climate and natural environment to be assessed

Press release 2020-05-08 at 12:13

The working group on sustainable recovery appointed by the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Krista Mikkonen has submitted its proposals for the first phase to the working group on the coronavirus exit and reconstruction strategy of the Prime Minister’s Office. The task of the working group was to discuss and propose measures that will promote the economic recovery while also responding to the climate crisis and decline in biodiversity.

Before the coronavirus crisis, several policy measures had been launched that aim at a carbon-neutral Finland by 2035 and halting the decline in biodiversity. The recovery measures to be taken should not slow down the measures that have already been started but, rather, boost them.

The working group considers it important that all recovery measures will also be assessed from the perspective of their climate and environment impacts. To support this assessment, the working group has drawn up a set of criteria to assess the impacts of individual measures on the climate, sufficiency of natural resources, circular economy, biodiversity, and state of the environment.

Some of the measures decided in the Government Programme could now be started earlier than planned to create new jobs and strengthen people’s confidence in the economy of our country. Finland could benefit significantly from taking the lead, and create new sustainable economic growth through the efforts to recover from the coronavirus crisis.

“Climate change and loss of biodiversity have not gone anywhere. Whether it is a question of one euro or one billion it can be used only once, and now it would make sense to target the funds to solving more than one crisis at the same time,” says Hannele Pokka, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of the Environment and chair of the working group.

“The recovery measures must not compromise the target set in the Government Programme concerning the transition into a carbon-neutral circular economy that also enhances biodiversity. This would be detrimental not only in terms of reaching the targets, but also because it would mean bad management of public and private funds”, says Mari Pantsar, Director at the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra and co-chair of the working group.

Working group proposes investments in energy efficiency, municipal infrastructure and nearby recreation areas

Sustainable recovery is possible in all sectors of society.

According to the proposals of the working group, the recovery measures should focus on improving the energy efficiency of buildings in a way that reduces energy consumption immediately and enables all property owners to participate. Such measures may include aid for public and private parties to giving up oil heating, aid for renovating schools and day-care centres to improve their energy efficiency, or raising the domestic help credit to be used for repairs relating to energy efficiency.

To support the transformation of the energy sector, permit decisions concerning windpower construction could be made even more quickly and more aid could be targeted to demonstration projects concerning new technologies.

Investments in sustainable municipal infrastructure such as bicycle and pedestrian traffic routes would help build a society where a low-emission lifestyle prevails. Additional aid for constructing recharging points for vehicles powered by electricity or natural gas would boost the transition to more sustainable transport.

The working group also proposes an aid package for the restoration and maintenance of the structures and facilities of nearby recreation areas such as nature trails and other sites used for outdoor recreation.

Support for research and development will boost the introduction of new solutions to practice and lay the foundation for future emission reductions and Finland’s competitiveness.

The climate fund to be set up under the State Business Development Company (VAKE) will make it possible to support the construction of a carbon-neutral society in times of economic downturn as well.

The annual costs (2020 and 2021) of the proposals of the working group to achieve the envisaged direct impact amount to EUR 480–510 million and the annual employment effect would be around 44,200 to 46,000 person-years. The figures do not include e.g. the windpower investments, climate fund or domestic help credit.

“The report of the working group gives an important message to the Government’s work as we are seeking a sustainable way out of the coronavirus crisis. In particular, I am happy with the set of criteria prepared by the working group that will make it possible to assess individual recovery measures with respect to their climate and environmental sustainability. The criteria will be a most useful tool and is certain to attract international attention as well. I am really looking forward to the outcomes of this group’s future work”, says Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Krista Mikkonen.

Next, the group will map out longer-term measures to boost the transition into a carbon-neutral circular economy and outline actions to be taken on the EU level that are line with the European Green Deal. The interim report of the working group will be published by 31 May and the proposals for sustainable recovery measures to be taken in the longer term will be completed by 30 September. For this work, the group will consult with scientists, associations and other relevant stakeholders and cooperate with the monitoring and action group for the construction sector appointed by the Ministry of the Environment.

Inquiries:

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

Mari Pantsar, Director, Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra +358 294 618 210, mari.pantsar@sitra.fi

Hannele Pokka, Permanent Secretary, tel. +358 295 250 234, hannele.pokka@ym.fi