Finland vows to become carbon neutral by 2035

New prime minister Antti Rinne said it was time to ‘invest in the future’

Alessio Perrone
Tuesday 04 June 2019 17:47
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The new Finnish government has pledged to make the country carbon neutral by 2035, one of the fastest targets set around the world.

In a coalition deal published on Monday that also includes increased welfare spending, the new government said it was committed to reform both Finland and the European Union’s climate policy to limit global average temperature increases to 1.5C.

Antii Rinne, the Social Democrat that has recently become Finland’s first centre-left prime minister in 20 years, told reporters it was time to “invest in the future”.

The target is a compromise between the five parties that make up Finland’s new government, including the Social Democrats, Greens and the Centre Party, and will be reviewed in 2025.

Haavisto Pekka, the leader of the Greens, said on Twitter that the goal was to make Finland “the world’s first fossil-free welfare society”.

In a symbolic act, members of the newly formed cabinet have reportedly taken the tram to the press conference in a public library.

In 2016, Norway also agreed to cut emissions to zero by 2030 – 20 years earlier than the previous deadline.

Environmentalists across the country praised the coalition deal, although they said there was still a lot of work to do.

“People demanded faster climate action and that’s what we’re going to get,” said Sini Harkki of Greenpeace Nordic on Twitter.

Green League Chairman Pekka Haavisto, Centre Party Chairman Juha Sipila, Social Democratic Party Chairman Antti Rinne, Left Alliance Chairwoman Li Andersson and Swedish People's Party Chairwoman Anna-Maja Henriksson are seen during a news conference about the programme of the next Finnish government and ministers in Helsinki, Finland June 3, 2019

“Building the world’s first fossil-free, sustainable society is going to require much more than nice words on paper, but we’re determined to make it happen.”

She said logging and the use of peat as an energy source were major challenges to meet the target, but still called it “an exciting journey we want to embark on”.

Fossil fuels and peat account for about 40 per cent of Finland’s energy consumption, with renewables accounting for 37 per cent.

According to Climate Barometer, a survey carried out before Finland’s election, some 80 per cent of Finns believed that urgent action was necessary to mitigate climate change, and 70 per cent thought the future government should do more to tackle the issue.

Finland held elections on 14 April this year. Mr Rinne and the Social Democrats gained 17.7 per cent of the vote, barely beating the far-right Finns party by just 0.2 percentage points.

The Social Democrats formed a government coalition with the Greens (11.5 per cent) and the outgoing Centre Party (13.7 per cent).

The Centre party had been in government since 2015 and was able to slash Finland’s public debt. However, it did so at the cost of heavy cuts that affected its performance in the polls.

The new coalition deal, which has been five months in the making, also includes a big public spending increase on welfare and infrastructure and an attempt to boost employment.

To fund the increased spending, the government plans to raise taxes by €730m, much of it through environmental levies and selling off some public assets.

In the deal, Finland’s new government say it will also seek to bring the EU to cut net emissions to zero before 2050.

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