"Finland has an excellent opportunity to rebuild itself in line with the principles of sustainable development"

3.1 Carbon neutral Finland that protects biodiversity

Current situation

Climate change, declining biodiversity and the overconsumption of natural resources are among the most critical issues facing humanity. Solving the sustainability crisis will require prompt, systemic changes in society. Finland has an excellent opportunity to rebuild itself in line with the principles of sustainable development, as a nation with a sustainable social structure, a well-educated population and a high level of technological expertise.

It is possible to mitigate climate change and safeguard biodiversity. People’s concerns about the state of the environment mean we must act quickly. When it comes to tackling climate and sustainability challenges, Finland can play a greater role than its size would suggest – we can leave a small footprint while making a big impression.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, any increase in the temperature beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius will significantly accelerate the extinction of species, render more and more areas of the world uninhabitable and pose substantial risks for food production, access to water and the functioning of the ecosystem. An upheaval in the basic conditions for life for hundreds of millions of people would lead to social and political instability, conflicts and forced migration. We only have a few years left to reverse the trend in global emission levels permanently.

As part of the European Union, Finland is committed to the Paris Agreement on climate change. According to the joint position of the parliamentary parties, achieving the goals of the Agreement will require long-term climate measures designed to achieve carbon neutrality in the European Union before 2050.

Finland has reduced its emissions to more than 21 per cent below the 1990s level and it will reach the EU’s climate targets for 2020 ahead of schedule. However, the 1.5 degree target also means tightening Finland’s emissions reduction requirements.

Finland’s biodiversity is continuing to decline. According to the most recent estimates, nearly half of Finland’s habitats and just over one in ten species are endangered. According to the Intergovernmental Science–Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), global biodiversity is declining at an unprecedented rate due to human activities. Finland is committed to doing its part to halt the decline of biodiversity. This will require quick and comprehensive actions.

Achieving the sustainable development goals will only be possible if we are able to stop the warming of the climate and the decline of biodiversity.

Objective 1

Finland will achieve carbon neutrality by 2035

The Government will work to ensure that Finland is carbon neutral by 2035 and carbon negative soon after that. We will do this by accelerating emissions reduction measures and strengthening carbon sinks.

The Government is committed to reforming the climate policies of the European Union and Finland so that we can do our part to limit the global mean temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Finland aims to develop the EU’s long-term climate measures so that the EU can achieve carbon neutrality before 2050. This means tightening the emissions reduction obligation for 2030 to at least 55 per cent below the 1990 emissions level.

We will continue our Nordic climate and energy cooperation in order to achieve carbon neutrality and will work to strengthen the position of the Nordic countries as leaders in international climate policy.

Measures

New climate policy objectives

The Government will decide on the additional actions needed to bring Finland’s emissions reduction path in line with the goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2035.

We will strengthen the role of the Climate Change Act as a guiding instrument. We will amend the Act in a way that will enable us to achieve the target of carbon neutrality by 2035. We will also update the target for 2050 in the Climate Change Act. We will add emissions reduction targets for 2030 and 2040 to the Act in line with our path to carbon neutrality. We will also include the land use sector in the Act and set a target for strengthening carbon sinks.

We will carry out an assessment of our carbon neutrality target in 2025. The assessment will take into account factors including new scientific data, technological development and the emissions commitments of other countries, along with the possibility of adopting international flexibility in meeting the targets.

We will update our medium-term climate change policy plan and national climate and energy strategy so we can reach the 2030 emissions reduction level required to achieve carbon neutrality. We will evaluate our solutions based on their efficiency and cost-effectiveness while also taking into account regional differences and impacts on employment.

A fair transition – guiding climate policy over the government term

Emissions reduction measures will be carried out in a way that is fair from a social and regional perspective and that involves all sectors of society.

The Government will establish a ministerial working group on climate and energy issues, which will be in charge of preparing climate policy as a whole. Assessing climate impacts will become a part of the normal process of drafting legislation.

Work to combat climate change requires contributions from all sectors of society. The Government will establish a round table on climate policy in connection with the sustainable development committee. By bringing together a variety of operators in society, we can ensure that our climate actions are in the best interests of society and have broad approval from the public.

The Government will assist local and regional authorities in preparing their own carbon neutrality plans and implementing climate actions.

We will strengthen the role of the Finnish Climate Panel as an independent, scientific expert body and allocate sufficient resources for it.

Objective 2

Finland aims to be the world’s first fossil-free welfare society

Electricity and heat production in Finland must be made nearly emissions-free by the end of the 2030s while also taking into account the perspectives of security of supply and servicing.

Measures

As part of the sustainable development tax reform, the Government will carry out a complete overhaul of energy taxation by the 2020 government budget session (August 2020). This transformation, together with the emissions trading scheme, will support our progress towards a carbon neutral circular economy.

In the first phase, we will make the following changes to the taxation scheme:

  • Emissions guidance in energy production will be increased by abolishing the industrial energy tax rebate system and reducing category II electricity tax towards the minimum rate allowed by the European Union. The overhaul will be carried out with cost neutrality over a transition period. Heat pumps and data centres generating heat for district heating networks will be transferred to category II electricity tax.
  • We will provide property tax relief for offshore wind power plants.
  • We will remove the double taxation on electricity storage for pumped storage facilities and smaller batteries.

We will develop the energy aid scheme, shifting the focus from production aid to grants supporting investments in new energy technologies and product demonstrations.

We will phase out the energy use of coal in line with existing decisions by May 2029 at the latest. We will support energy companies in transitioning away from coal by 2025 by providing incentives for investments to replace coal.

We will support the adoption and piloting of new methods for producing district heating and heat storage without burning fuel.

According to the current forecasts, the use of peat primarily as an energy source will be discontinued during the 2030s as the cost of the emissions allowance rises, although it will remain in use to ensure security of supply. We will decrease the use of peat for energy by at least half by 2030. As part of the overhaul of energy taxation, we will assess the necessary changes to the taxation of peat so that we can achieve our 2030 peat targets. We must ensure that timber material does not end up incinerated.

We will establish a broad-based peat industry working group to explore how we can direct the use of peat away from incineration and increase its use in innovative, high added-value products. The working group will present means to ensure that the change occurs in a way that is fair at the regional and social levels and that does not jeopardise the security of electricity and heat in Finland.

We will phase out the use of fossil fuel oil in heating by the start of the 2030s. Oil heating will no longer be used in properties owned by the central and local governments by 2024. We will adopt a separate action plan to encourage properties using oil heating to switch to other forms of heating during the 2020s.

Increasing electrification in society and connecting energy systems (electricity, heat and transport) to one another will require significant growth in renewable electricity production. We will increase the proportion of energy produced using wind power in Finland. We estimate that the amount of wind power produced on land will rise according to market conditions. We will improve the conditions for the construction of offshore wind power plants. We will remove the administrative, zoning-related and other barriers to wind power construction. We will explore the possibilities to loosen the restrictions on wind power due to radars.

We view extended permits for existing nuclear power plants positively, provided that the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority is in favour of them.

In order to manage energy transmission prices, we will implement the findings of studies on the cost of energy transmission, such as extending the balancing period  for underproduction. We will develop flexibility in the electricity network, along with alternative ways to ensure the security of the electricity supply, particularly in sparsely populated areas. We will explore the possibility to restrict the annual raises to the electricity transmission charges.

In cooperation with industry operators, we will create sector-specific low-carbon roadmaps that will be brought in line with our new climate actions.

The transition to a low-carbon economy will require additional investments, particularly in bioeconomy, circular economy, clean energy solutions, energy efficiency, emissions- free forms of energy production, energy storage solutions, carbon recovery and energy utilisation, along with research, development and innovation activities and measures to bring these solutions to the market.

We will develop the Nordic electricity market and the integration of energy systems, and joint research activities to support these through EU research programmes.

Decision-making in society will guide and encourage public and private cash flows to support the shift towards a climate-friendly circular economy.

We will improve the security of energy supply together with Finnish industry operators by developing a smarter electricity and district heating network, improving transmission connections and utilising new possibilities for energy storage.

We must utilise the potential of smart electricity networks and demand response to its fullest. We will develop regulations and taxation in a way that facilitates the utilisation of small-scale energy production for all parties involved, including housing companies, single-family houses and farms.

In connection with implementing the amendments to the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, we will ensure that heating systems based on heat pumps do not cause spikes in electricity consumption.

Objective 3

We will strengthen carbon sinks and stocks in the short and long term

Measures

As part of planning for the climate and energy policy system, the Government will create a comprehensive climate programme for the land use sector. The purpose of the programme is to identify means to decrease emissions from the land use sector and strengthen Finland’s carbon sinks in the long and short term. The goal is to increase Finland’s net carbon sink. Policies on carbon sinks will be added to the Climate Change Act and Finland’s strategy towards carbon neutrality. The development of carbon sinks and the effectiveness of the related measures will be assessed as part of the annual reporting required by the Climate Change Act.

The measures of the climate programme for the land use sector will be assessed from the perspective of efficiency and cost-effectiveness. The programme’s measures include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Safeguarding the management, growth capacity and health of forests
  • Advancing afforestation
  • Reducing deforestation
  • Means to reduce the emissions of swamps and peatlands
  • Climate-sustainable management of swamp forests
  • Reducing the emissions and strengthening the carbon sequestration properties of agricultural land

We will develop guidance instruments and incentives for strengthening the carbon sinks and stores of forests and soil.

We will promote the use of diverse forestry and forest management methods, including continuous cover forestry, while taking into account climate targets and financial aspects.

We will assess our forest management recommendations and, if necessary, update them based on research and monitoring data and practical experiences.

We will update Metsähallitus’ ownership policies in a way that better reconciles the priorities of sustainable forestry, the availability of timber, biodiversity, recreational use of forests, climate policy targets and the various forms of land use.

The annual entry of revenues requirements for Metsähallitus will take better account of the impacts on carbon sinks and biodiversity, in addition to forestry and the timber needs of industry. We will also set a carbon-sink target for Metsähallitus.

We will advance research and product development concerning wood products with a high processing value and long carbon storage period, along with the sustainable utilisation of industry side streams. We will work to ensure transparency and effectiveness in the timber market so that wood material is targeted appropriately.

We will explore the possibility of adopting climate impact assessments as part of the environmental permit procedure.

We will mitigate clear-cutting of forests for construction purposes by, for example, adopting charges for changes to land use.

We will assess the effectiveness of the Forest Act. We will reform the sustainable forestry financing system to focus more on active, well-timed forest management and nature management measures, increasing carbon sequestration and improving biodiversity. The system also covers maintenance of the forest road network.

We will implement a set of measures focusing on nutrient recycling, which will increase the production and consumption of biogas and create a market for recycled fertilisers, thereby significantly reducing the need to clear new fields for manure application and decreasing the nutrient load on waterways.

We will continue to focus on researching carbon sinks, measuring carbon sequestration and developing calculation models.

We will implement pilots for carbon sequestration and storage markets in Finland, albeit not as a replacement for emissions reductions.

Finland will advance the international 4/1000 initiative to increase carbon sequestration in agriculture. We will develop research on new farming methods and advance the adoption of these.

Objective 4

Reducing the carbon footprint of construction and housing

Measures

We will implement a set of measures to decrease the carbon footprint of housing, improve the energy efficiency of the existing building stock and support the transition to emissions-free heat generation.

  • We will adopt an energy subsidy scheme designed especially for housing companies with the goal of supporting improvements in energy efficiency and measures aiming toward smart, flexible energy consumption. The principle of the subsidy scheme is that the assistance will be paid in proportion to the energy efficiency benefits achieved. The projects must be cost-effective and appropriately designed.
  • We will continue to offer subsidies for building charging infrastructure for electric cars and increase the amount of the subsidies granted.
  • We will explore the possibility of bringing the costs of planning energy renovations under the scope of the domestic help credit, making the credit available to shareholders in housing companies and applying a higher credit percentage for renovation work that aims to increase the energy efficiency of buildings or to transition away from fossil fuel-based heating systems.

We will increase the availability of continuing education in the construction sector in order to raise the level of energy efficiency expertise. We will invest in independent construction-sector  research.

When developing building regulations, we will ensure the possibility of using natural ventilation without compromising on energy efficiency targets.

We will promote wide-ranging renovation and energy efficiency projects aiming to improve the energy efficiency of entire blocks, areas or cities.

Together with industry operators, we will create a sector-specific plan to achieve carbon neutrality in the construction sector. We will continue to implement the low-carbon construction roadmap and develop a legislative framework based on the carbon footprint of buildings throughout their lifecycle. We will enhance the efficiency of the circular economy and the recycling of materials in the construction sector.

We will promote wood construction, as wooden buildings also function as carbon stores. We will develop material neutrality in fire regulations to reduce the need for double fire protection (technical and structural) of wood buildings. We will also investigate whether to ease the fire regulations on wood construction.

We will set minimum requirements for building charging infrastructure for electric vehicles at properties in connection with major renovations. We will remove administrative barriers to building charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, particularly in housing companies.

Objective 5

We will halt the decline of biodiversity in Finland

Finland will achieve the goals of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

Measures

We will increase the total amount of funding for nature conservation by EUR 100 million at the annual level.

We will implement an action plan to improve the condition of habitats in decline.

We will continue and renew the METSO programme and increase its funding. We will explore the possibility of broadening the scope of the programme to cover new habitats, such as swamps. We will continue to implement the complementary marshlands protection programme.

The repair debt of Mestähallitus nature sites will be reduced systematically through a programme extending throughout the parliamentary term, and the core funding for Natural Heritage Services (NHS) will be increased. We will improve the conditions for nature tourism business throughout Finland.

We will expand the national parks network.

We will continue to implement the principle of the Nature Gift to Finland campaign according to which, when a private land owner protects a valuable nature area, Metsähallitus will protect an area of corresponding size from its areas of highest nature value.

We will safeguard the self-financing share of Life financing.

We will explore innovative means to finance nature conservation.

Areas protected under the Nature Conservation Act will be exempt from real estate tax. We will continue to conduct inventories of species and habitats.

We will amend the legislation on nature conservation based on assessments.

We will ensure that the Nature Panel has the conditions required for its operations.

We will carry out pilots on the use of ecological compensation in major infrastructure projects, for example, and evaluate the need to amend legislation based on experiences gained from the pilots. Ecological compensation means a principle according to which activities that cause adverse effects on biodiversity are compensated by restoring degraded habitats and providing new values in another area, however in such a way that compensation is the last step after minimising natural damage. Before it is possible to use compensation, however, the negative environmental effects of the original project must be minimised.

We will promote nature management of commercial forests through measures such as leaving rotting wood and stumps, prescribed burning, standing rotting trees, game cover, protection zones and actions to decrease the impact on waterways. We will advance the use of continuous growth methods on Metsähallitus land as well.

We will tackle the issue of invasive alien species more effectively through legislation and greater funding for preventive measures.

We will safeguard the conditions for sustainable recreational fishing, hunting, gathering of natural products and right of access to private land.

We will update the Water Act to extend the fisheries obligations to plants with a “zero obligation”. We will launch a national programme to restore migratory fish stocks.

  • Restoring a natural cycle in waters with built structures will continue on the basis of the National Fish Passage Strategy.
  • Migration barriers will be removed and fish breeding grounds restored. Solutions will be´introduced to help fish get past the barriers.
  • Migratory fish projects will be implemented through broad cooperation. Fisheries obligations will be updated by the public authorities.

We will increase resources for environmental research and environmental administration. We will develop the secondary environmental liability systems (TOVA).

We will advance education concerning nature and the environment.

Protection of the Baltic Sea

The Government will strengthen international environmental cooperation in the Arctic and the Baltic Sea region. The Government will ensure sufficient resources for updating the Baltic Sea strategy during Finland's Presidency of the Council of the EU and for updating the Baltic Sea protection plan during Finland’s HELCOM Presidency.

We will strengthen the participation of European and Nordic financial institutions in projects aiming to improve the environment and climate of the Baltic Sea region.

We will continue the intensified Baltic Sea and water protection programme within at least the current scope during the parliamentary term in order to achieve a good ecological state of the water areas.

We will broaden the use of gypsum, structural lime and nutrient fibre in fields, either as part of the environmental support programme for agriculture or through separate measures.

We will promote the use of fish species native to Finland and the use of Baltic Blend feed in fish farming.

We will improve our oil and chemical spill response capabilities and increase the level of cooperation in dealing with oil spills as part of the EU’s Baltic Sea strategy.

Objective 6

We will strengthen Finland’s role as a leader in the circular economy

Measures

Circular economy as the foundation for the new economy

We will intensify circular economy activities to mitigate the overconsumption of natural resources and curb climate change, safeguard biodiversity, create new employment opportunities and strengthen the competitiveness of our economy.

We will promote the development of services to replace products and strengthen the market for recycled raw materials to replace virgin materials.

We will work systematically to increase the proportion of recycled raw materials in material loops.

We will strengthen Finland’s role as a leader in the circular economy. We will adopt a horizontal, strategic circular economy programme and the related indicators over the government term. The programme will set targets, define the necessary measures and allocate the resources needed to promote the circular economy in Finland.

We will use administrative, legislative and economic instruments to guide the promotion of the circular economy and remove barriers to its implementation in Finland and the European Union.

We will also strengthen Finland’s profile as a leader in circular economy in international forums (including in various UN processes and the World Trade Organization).

We will develop exports of Finnish circular economy expertise and create good conditions for international circular economy cooperation in a variety of sectors.

Finland will work on behalf of amending the Ecodesign Directive to better advance the circular economy.

Our work to strengthen the circular economy will also take into account nutrient recycling.

To boost investments in circular economy, we will adopt fixed-term investment aid for projects promoting the circular economy.

Waste recycling

We will create a vision for the waste management sector that supports recycling and circular economy targets and that extends into the 2030s. Our goal is to increase the recycling rate to at least the level of the EU’s recycling targets.

In connection with the amendments to the Waste Act currently in progress, we will ensure that municipalities comply with the provisions of the Act also in cases when property holders are responsible for organising waste transport. We will keep the limit on external sales for waste management operators at 10 per cent (starting from 1 January 2030).

We will ensure sufficient resources for developing monitoring and measurement systems.

We will also explore the possibility of adopting separate collection of textiles before the 2025 deadline set by the Waste Directive.

We will enhance the efficiency of plastics recycling and implement the proposals of the Plastics Roadmap for Finland.

Public and private consumption

The central government and local authorities must act as leaders in the adoption of environmentally friendly solutions.

We will increase procurement expertise and the obligations of the Act on Public Procurement and Concession Contracts concerning procurements and quality assessment. We will amend the Act on Public Procurement and Concession Contracts so that carbon and environmental footprints will be included as criteria for procurements with significant environmental impacts.

We will adopt a tool for the division of risks of innovative procurements. We will accelerate the widespread adoption of good practices for sustainable and innovative procurements.

We will strengthen consumers’ ability to obtain information about the climate and environmental impacts of services and commodities. We will advance the use of the existing criteria to support sustainable consumption and create new criteria. We will reform the taxation system to support sustainable consumption and the sustainable development goals. The objective of the reform is to make climate and environmental effects more visible in the prices of products and services.

Objective 7

Climate-friendly food policy

Measures

Public procurement and public food and catering services play a key role in improving the sustainability of the food system.

A national ‘climate food’ programme will be prepared with the goal of minimising the climate footprint of the food consumed and improving understanding of how food is produced.

We will increase the share of vegetable-rich in public procurement and in public food and catering services. With respect to meat, eggs and milk, local governments will be guided to give preference to Finnish local and organic production.

We will halve the amount of food loss and food waste by 2030, and we will draw up a roadmap to reduce loss and waste at every stage of the food chain.

Objective 8

Improving the environmental protection of mines

Measures

We will renew the legislation on mining. The purpose of the reform is to improve the level of environmental protection and ensure the operating conditions of mines, while also improving local acceptability and influencing opportunities.

Provisions will be made to give municipal authorities the right to decide through land use planning whether it is possible to carry out mining activities in the municipality.

We will improve the position and right to information of property owners and landowners in the area affected by mines.

When undertaking significant mining projects, the rights of indigenous peoples will be taken into account as required by the current legislation.

We will improve the compatibility of mining permits and environmental permits.

We will take into account the environmental impacts of planned mines at the earliest stage possible.

We will develop the ability to take into account the uranium content of ore when assessing the environmental impacts of mines.

We will develop the regulation on securities so that environmental responsibilities are dealt with in all situations.

Mining activities targeting minerals in the sea bed will also be included within the scope of the legislation.

We will explore the permit processes, practices and possible need for restriction concerning mineral prospecting rights in nature conservation areas.

Objective 9

Improving the welfare of animals

Measures

The proposal for an Act on the Welfare of Animals that was under consideration during the previous parliamentary term will be elaborated so that the rationale for the Act recognises the inherent value of animals and allows for the expression of their natural behaviours.

We will establish an expert working group to determine how we can support the pig husbandry industry’s goal of discontinuing the use of farrowing crates. We will discontinue the construction of new stanchion-tied stables.

In connection with work to assess the profitability of agriculture, we will also look into the possibilities to strengthen the transition through incentives.

We will look into the possibility of discontinuing the castration of pigs and will ensure sufficient pain relief in painful procedures.

We will develop an aid scheme for investments that improve the welfare of animals beyond the requirements of the Act or that implement the requirements of the act before the statutory transition period.

We will look into the possibility of adopting an antibiotic tax for animal products, for instance, with the goal of advancing sustainable production methods and reducing the overuse of antibiotics.

We will advance the criteria for animal welfare in Nordic and EU standards and legislation.

We will develop regulations for trade in animals, particularly as concerns online trade, and will look into the identification and registration of dogs and cats.

We will lay down provisions on veterinarians’ duty to report procedures carried out on pets due to hereditary defects.

We will increase the amount of funding for adopting methods to replace animal testing.

We will improve the supervision of compliance with legislation on animal welfare and enhance the effectiveness of video surveillance of slaughterhouses.

We will establish the post of Animal Welfare Ombudsman in Seinäjoki.