Finland will go carbon neutral by 2035

By Anu Harkki

Last summer after almost two months of negotiations, Finland`s new coalition government with five parties agreed on the goal of carbon neutrality by 2035.

Unlike neighbouring Norway, which has an even early 2030 carbon neutral target, Finland does not aim to depend on buying credits for carbon cutting projects in other countries. However, that is subject to review in 2025.  This determined target is a give and take between the Green party the Left Alliance and the previously dominant Centre Party. The Greens desire to reach net-zero emissions preferably, arguing Finland had a responsibility to lead as a rich country but the Centre party, known as party of the farmers, give rise to concerns about the impact on forestry interests.

The global forests are a major carbon sink because they absorb carbon dioxide through a pathway of green plants, called the photosynthesis.  With the world edging at all times connecting to break the Paris Agreement’s pledge to restriction climate change and global warming to well below two degrees Celsius, forests’ act in cooling the climate has become increasingly vital.

The boreal forests in Northern Europe and Russia are important part of mother earths lungs.  Plans to increase logging in Finnish forests will have dire impacts on the climate; and at the same time government is ignoring evidence of the several research institutes and scientists.

Over the past few years Finland has focused a lot of political lobbying to the European Union to weaken its rules on how members account for the intensity of logging versus maintaining the forest carbon sinks as they are.

A contend over how European Union countries explanation for emissions from their region & forests sectors has been going on in Brussels for the past several years.   

The reason for forests being so important for Finland’s economy is historical, related to major forest sector industries in Finland.

To help the current economic down turn in Europe and Finland the National Forest governing body (Metsähallitus ) last year declared plans to raise harvesting its forests by over 20% between now and 2030. The Finnish government continue they should not have to account for the emissions from this expanded logging, since Finland’s forests will still absorb additionally carbon dioxide than they release.   

The forests in Finland are mostly owned by private citizens, only close to 10 % is state owned.  This makes it even harder to somehow control the logging.  The forest owners say that there must be a prize for carbon sinks – and this seems fair.

Last March, a group of Finnish scientists published a statement about the adverse effects of the planned additional logging.  They pointed out that the unusually high logging decreases the carbon sink in a drastic way.  Also, the polls show that Finnish citizens are concerned about the climate, even as high as over 70% of people wish strong climate actions. 

EU hopefully listens to science as it finalizes its new forest strategy by the end of this year as one action point in EU`s new European Green Deal.

 At the same time, Finland should phase out fossil fuels and peat, which account for 40% of the energy consumption. The government has already decided that coal cannot be used for heat and power after 2030.  This reduces Finland`s emissions by 16 Million tn (CO2 e) but there is still 19 more to be cut out.  With current forest carbon sink Finland should cut out 35 Miltn (CO2 e) of emissions by 2035.

This week the government parties had a seminar on strategic climate focused decisions but the results were a disappointment for many. The major drawback being the fact that decisions made so far are not enough for Finland to become carbon neutral by 2035.

So far, the government has made decisions to get rid of coal as energy source by 2030, lower the industry electricity tax to EU minimum and direct the returns from the state-owned industries into climate investments.

According to many experts the key is to get rid of fossil fuels in heating and in Finland this means coal, oil, natural gas and peat.  The decision to stop using peat would alone reduce close to 10 Miltn (CO2 e), or 7% of country`s annual emissions.  Fossils could be replaced with geothermal heat, heat pumps and utilize waste heat.

The government has promised to keep on track with its decision of last summer for Finland to be carbon neutral by 2035 – many environmental bodies keep on following what happens next.

Finland will go carbon neutral by 2035 – setting one of the world’s earliest timelines for carbon neutrality

Anu Harkki

PhD, MBA, Emerita Research Director, Climate reality Leader, Activist Granny – founding member.

A group of grandmothers founded a Activist grannies movement last year.  The activist grannies wish to maintain a peaceful and safe future to every grandchildren.  The  activist grannies now have over 5300 members and we have versatile activities in fighting the climate change.