Green as Hel

Finland to go carbon neutral by 2035

The coast of Helsinki, Finland. The country's topography and harsh weather makes it particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. (Tapio Haaja/Unsplash)

Following the election in April of this year of a left-leaning, five-party coalition government in Finland, the country has pledged to institute a wide-ranging increase in infrastructure and welfare spending and to make the country carbon neutral by 2035.

If enacted, the transition would make Finland the first fossil fuel-free country in the world. 

Social Democratic party leader Antti Rinne set the target on June 3 and broke down how Finland would reach such an ambitious goal. The plan to combat climate change involves a full-scale mobilization of the Finnish economy and an overt rejection of the austerity imposed by the former center-right coalition. 

Rinne emphasized that efforts will stem directly from internal cutbacks and reorganization of national energy sourcing, rather than from outsourcing carbon dioxide emissions via carbon-capture credits in other countries. The plan is slated to be reviewed in 2025.

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

The new government will increase public spending by $1.4 billion per year over their incoming term, made possible by increasing taxes by an estimated $828 million—much of that stemming from fossil fuel levies. The government’s plan to address infrastructure and welfare in combination also aims to raise nationwide employment from 72.4 percent (in April of 2019) to 75 percent.   

Harkki also commented on the “far from perfect” nature of the plan, which will have major implications on the nation’s forestry and peat industries. However, she cited that with the “broad public support” the government and its program has, steps can be taken to refine government actions and win partisan fights.

Some parts of the country have already taken even more progressive steps ahead of any official action. A northern town called Li is on track to cut its emissions by 80 percent by 2020 — 30 years ahead of the EU’s most ambitious targets. Li has ceased using fossil fuels and instead invested heavily in geothermal, solar, and wind energy sources since 2012, with a payoff: The town generates $568,000 in profit each year. On top of this, they are working towards becoming the world’s first zero-waste community, too. 

The financial success and stability of Li counters a stance by the populist Finns party, who claim that the environmental goals of the country’s left would “take the sausage from the mouths of laborers.” The push and pull within the Scandinavian country echoes a worldwide divide, one between economic stability in continuing the status-quo and the risks of system overhaul to address emissions issues around the globe. 

Related Stories