The foresight report outlines long-term climate and energy policy: Towards a thriving low-carbon Finland
The Government adopted Thursday (15 October) the Foresight Report on Long-term Climate and Energy Policy. Setting a target to reduce Finland’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent from the 1990 level by 2050 as part of an international effort, the report marks out the road to a low-carbon Finland in 2050.
In the Climate and Energy Strategy adopted in the autumn of 2008, the Government gave an outline of its climate and energy policy focusing on the years up to 2020. The strategy put forward concrete measures for Finland to achieve the EU's climate and energy objectives. In its discussion of climate and energy policy beyond 2020 and outlining of paths towards a sustainable level of emissions over the long term, the foresight report supplements and supports the work carried out as part of the strategy.
As the period in question extends until 2050, no future developments can be known for certain. For this reason, the report aims to map out a variety of possible futures and to support preparedness for them by weighing up a number of different lines of action. Besides this, the report includes quantitative targets and sets out concrete guidelines for measures to be taken.
Unmitigated climate change may result in immense human suffering and destroy ecosystems. To minimise the risks and harm, the Government supports efforts to limit global warming over the period to two degrees Celsius at most. This means that global emissions should peak within the next few years, and it is likely that a reduction of at least 50 per cent will be required by 2050.
Achieving the two-degree target requires joint global efforts to combat climate change. Finland will actively work towards reaching a comprehensive and ambitious agreement in climate negotiations and pursue the integration of climate issues in foreign policy and international cooperation. Finland will also contribute to efforts to seek sufficient climate funding for poor countries.
The target: cutting emissions by at least 80 per cent
The target of the foresight report is a shift to a thriving low-carbon society in which emissions have been reduced by at least 80 per cent from the 1990 level by 2050 as part of a wider international effort. Other industrialised countries, together with emerging economies, will each bear their own fair share of the responsibility. In practice, the achievement of emission reductions in Finland requires virtually zero-emission energy and road transport sectors in the long term.
The report puts forward a number of specific policy lines covering targets, actions and areas requiring further study. For example, the energy standards for new buildings will be revised in order to improve energy efficiency, and efficiency improvements will be required in renovations of existing buildings. Ecological tax reform will be continued, and information concerning the climate impacts of choices in everyday life will be made easily available to citizens.
Climate protection opens up opportunities
Building a low-carbon society calls for strong and urgent measures at all levels and sectors of society. Municipalities, enterprises, different kinds of organisations and private individuals are all needed in the joint effort to combat climate change.
Climate protection offers opportunities for efficiency, technology and jobs. Low-carbon products and services may become the new cornerstone of Finland’s economy and exports, and a number of solutions that reduce emissions may also increase people’s personal well-being. Climate protection needs to promote development that is ecologically, economically and socially sustainable. Indicators of sustainable well-being should be elaborated to complement gross domestic product data.
It is inevitable that, as a result of the greenhouse gases already released into the atmosphere, the climate will to some degree continue to warm. Therefore, in addition to mitigating climate change, measures must also be taken to adapt to its consequences. Finland has been a leader in this field, but there is still scope for development. Poor countries need to be supported in their adaptation efforts.
Four example scenarios, marking out and illustrating possible paths towards a low-carbon society, were commissioned from consultants for the purpose of the foresight report. The scenarios are not predictions, and the Government has taken no position on any of them, nor has it selected any of them for implementation.
The work on the scenarios indicates that the shift to a low-carbon society requires a marked improvement in energy efficiency in all sectors. Similarly, in all cases there is a need for the development, deployment and diffusion of low-carbon technology, and the use of renewable energy needs to be increased significantly. Emission reductions are, in certain scenarios, facilitated by factors such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) and the construction of additional nuclear power plants.
Preparation of the foresight report and passing the message on
The preparation of the report has been carried out at the Prime Minister’s Office in cooperation with the key ministries. The authors have consulted with a group of experts and over a hundred other specialists and representatives of stakeholders who have participated in a variety of workshops and thematic discussions. Citizens and stakeholders have been encouraged to present their views via Internet questionnaires and online discussions.
The preparation of the foresight report has been supervised by a ministerial working group led by Minister of the Environment Paula Lehtomäki. A number of studies and scenario calculations were commissioned to support the work. The background material is listed in an appendix to the report, and it is available on the project's website. After being adopted by the Government, the report will be submitted to Parliament for a referral debate on Wednesday 21 October.
To get the message out to citizens, a series of regional future forums – the first of which are to take place in Lappeenranta (4 November) and Seinäjoki (9 November) – will be organised in cooperation with the parliamentary Committee for the Future and local actors. The foresight report will also be presented at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December.
Further information: Oras Tynkkynen, Government Climate Policy Specialist, Member of Parliament, tel. +358 50 512 1584, Pirkko Heikinheimo, Project Manager, tel. +358 9 1602 2134 or +358 400 259 222, Jukka Ihanus, Special Adviser to the Prime Minister (Political Affairs), tel. +358 9 1602 2009 or +358 50 463 9929, Prime Minister’s Office and Hanna Ekman, Special Adviser to the Minister of the Environment, tel. +358 20 490 7020 or +358 400 873 743, Ministry of the Environment