Climate change mitigation
Climate change can be slowed down by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing carbon sinks. In the Paris Agreement, the signatory countries committed to limiting the global average temperature increase to well below 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels. The aim is to limit the increase to 1.5ºC, as this would significantly reduce the destructive impacts of climate change. The global average temperature has already risen by more than one degree, so effective measures need to be implemented in many sectors and by decision-making bodies.
Climate change mitigation is needed in all sectors
More than 70% of Finland’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the energy sector. The other main sources of emissions include agriculture (15%), industrial processes and product use (11%) and waste management (4%).
Emission reduction measures are needed in all sectors. The section entitled ‘Climate change mitigation by sector’ presents the emission reduction measures for each sector of the economy.
Climate change mitigation by sector
The energy sector is responsible for the majority of global greenhouse gas emissions. Approximately three quarters of CO2 emissions result from the use of fossil fuels. Emissions can be cut by reducing energy consumption and switching to renewable and low-carbon forms of energy.
Renewable energy accounted for 44% of Finland’s total energy consumption in 2020. Most of this comes from wood-based energy sources. Other sources of renewable energy include wind, water and solar power. Of these, wind and solar energy production has grown rapidly in recent years. Nuclear energy is also a low-carbon energy form, and one which has increased in popularity in recent years. Nuclear energy accounted for 18.2% of Finland’s total energy consumption in 2021.
The transport sector is one of the largest sources of emissions, and it is also a sector with high potential for emission reductions. Finland’s goal for 2030 is to halve transport emissions from 2005 levels. By 2045, Finland aims to have a zero-emissions transport sector. Efforts to reduce transport emissions include increasing walking, cycling and public transport use, improving the energy efficiency of vehicles and shifting to lower-emission fuels and electric vehicles.
Forestry affects the size of forest carbon sinks and stocks. In terms of climate objectives, it is important that forestry does not reduce the amount of carbon stored in forests or weaken the ability of forests to absorb carbon.
The way wood is used is also important, as short-lived products quickly release the carbon dioxide contained in the wood back into the atmosphere, while long-lived products can serve as carbon stocks.
In addition, forests play a major role in producing raw materials for renewable energy. Wood-based energy accounts for 74% of renewable energy in Finland. Most of this comes from waste products and by-products of the forest industry.
Agriculture and food production
The agricultural sector produces a significant share of global emissions. The majority of agricultural emissions consist of three different greenhouse gases: methane from the digestion of domestic animals, carbon dioxide emissions from liming, and nitrous oxide from arable land and manure treatment.
The climate impacts of food production can be limited by increasing the share of vegetable-based food in people’s diet and by reducing food waste. In addition, certain cultivation methods can increase the ability of fields to absorb and store carbon.
Land use and land use planning
Various aspects of land use and land use planning have climate impacts. These include changes to carbon sinks, urban structure and transport planning. The expansion of cities and agriculture takes up space that could be filled by carbon-absorbing vegetation. Such expansion can also increase mobility needs within a city. A denser urban structure is therefore a better solution for the climate. At the same time, however, consideration should be given to how urban densification affects cities’ air quality, biodiversity, ecosystem services and pleasantness. The volume of traffic can also be reduced through land use that combines different functions, such as housing, jobs and services. Urban design solutions can also be aimed at supporting public transport, walking and cycling.
Construction consumes a lot of natural resources and energy. At northern latitudes, a lot of energy is also used to heat buildings. At the same time, increasing amounts of energy are used for cooling during the increasingly hot summers. Energy consumption in buildings and the construction industry accounts for more than one third of Finland's greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, there is a great deal of potential for reducing emissions by increasing the energy efficiency of buildings.
Energy needs in buildings can be reduced by utilising solar energy. Certain design solutions can serve to maximise natural light and the warming effect of the sun, for example, while also improving options for keeping the building cool in the summer. Solar collectors, meanwhile, can utilise solar radiation to heat domestic water, and solar panels can cover part of the building's electricity needs. Another option are ground and air heat pumps, which indirectly use solar energy. Climate-positive choices can be made in the building materials used. Preference for wood as a construction material creates long-lasting carbon stocks (see section on the importance of carbon sinks and stocks). Attention should also be paid to the use of space, as a building’s area has a large impact on energy needs. In addition, renovation of an existing building is, as a rule, a lower-carbon alternative than new construction, and energy-focused renovations can significantly reduce buildings’ energy consumption level.
Production and consumption
Production and consumption cause significant emissions. Emissions are strongly linked to the economic situation, such that there is often a clear drop in emissions during times of economic recession. Emissions can be decreased by reducing consumption and favouring long-lasting and repairable products. The circular economy aims to extend the service life of products and increase the reuse and recycling of products and raw materials.
Consumption can be guided towards greater sustainability in various ways. Taxation and subsidies can be used to adjust the prices of materials and products, which in turn affect consumers' purchasing decisions. ‘Nudging’ methods can also be used to influence consumers' behaviour. The idea of nudging is to make choosing a more sustainable product as easy as possible, while also maintaining the consumer’s freedom of choice. Nudging methods can also be used in many other sectors.
Greenhouse gas emissions from waste management have been reduced through methods such as recovering gases from landfills. Recycling and reducing consumption also helps to reduce waste sector emissions.
Importance of carbon sinks and stocks
Most carbon dioxide emissions remain in the atmosphere, where they cause global warming. Some carbon dioxide, however, ends up in vegetation, the soil or the sea, which are referred to as carbon sinks. Reducing emissions is a priority, but in the long term we also need to be able to absorb the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into carbon sinks. The aim of such efforts is to achieve ‘negative emissions’.
In Finland, forests and swamps function as natural carbon sinks. Forests affect the amount of carbon in the atmosphere by absorbing, or sequestering, carbon dioxide – particularly during the growing stage of trees – and by storing it in vegetation and the soil. The size of carbon sinks and stocks can be managed by measures such as regulating the quantity of tree felling. Emission levels are also affected by the end use of wood products. Using wood as a construction material stores carbon for longer than processing wood for short-lived products such as paper.
Carbon footprint calculation and reduction
Carbon footprint refers to the climate impact of a product, activity or service. You can monitor the climate impact of yourself, your company or your municipality using various climate calculators. The calculators also provide tips for reducing one’s carbon footprint.
Consumption-based greenhouse gas emissions
Consumption-based carbon footprints can be examined at the municipal and regional level. According to the most up-to-date emission calculations, the total consumption-based greenhouse gas emissions of Finnish municipalities are approximately 57.4 MtCO2e. Municipal consumption-based emissions consist of household consumption (83%), municipal procurement (11%) and investments (6%).
Of household emissions, housing accounts for 25%, food consumption 23%, mobility 22%, other goods 16% and other services 14%.
Emissions from municipal procurement are mainly the result of services purchases, which account for 60% of all such emissions. Investment-related emissions are mostly connected with construction projects. The shares of different emission sources vary significantly between regions.
Emissions from municipal consumption also include emissions from the consumption of imported commodities. The figures thus make visible the climate emissions of our consumption that originate outside our municipal borders, as they include emissions from production abroad.
Everyone can reduce their carbon footprint
It is also possible to calculate your own carbon footprint. This footprint includes the greenhouse gas emissions caused by your consumption of housing, mobility, food and other goods and services.
Compensating greenhouse gas emissions is a useful option in situations where, for example, it is difficult or expensive to reduce emissions. Typical ways of compensating include protecting and planting forests or projects that increase the use of renewable energy. Compensation projects are often located in developing countries. There are many uncertainties related to compensation projects, however. Such projects should ensure, for example, that the protection of forests would not take place without the project funding. Otherwise the claimed emission reductions are not correct. It must also be ensured that the emission reductions are not claimed by multiple parties (referred to as ‘double counting’) such as if they are claimed both in Finland and in the country where the project is located. Uncertainties also often relate to how long the climate benefits of the projects will last. Furthermore, compensation should also pay attention to issues of justice, such as how projects affect the rights of the local population.
Roles and responsibilities in climate change mitigation
Different societal actors have different responsibilities in the mitigation of climate change.
International agreements set goals
Mitigating climate change is a global challenge that requires all countries to play their part. Particular responsibility lies with wealthy industrialised countries with the highest CO2 emissions per capita. The objectives of international climate policy are defined in various agreements, including the UN Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol and, most recently, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The Paris Agreement adopted in 2015 set the target of limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels. The United Nations (UN) is the most important international actor in climate policy. Finland's participation in UN climate conferences is coordinated by the Ministry of the Environment.
The European Union steers Finland’s climate action
The EU regulates the climate action of its Member States by setting different objectives and obligations. EU climate policy is based on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The 2019 European Green Deal sets out how the EU intends to achieve its main environmental objectives.
Emissions trading is one of the EU’s key mitigation measures. Emissions trading sets emission caps for large industrial and energy production plants. Within these limits, they can then purchase and sell emission permits.
Central government and government agencies in climate work
Based on the international and EU objectives set, Finland determines its own national climate targets and strategies. Finland's climate policy is guided by the national Climate Act, which entered into force in 2015 and was updated in 2022. Climate action is also regulated by several sector-specific laws.
Various ministries are responsible for planning and implementing climate policy in accordance with their own areas of responsibility. Parliament approves international climate agreements and also legislates on climate-related issues. In Finland, climate action is also promoted by the environmental administration, which is steered by the Ministry of the Environment. This administration includes the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), the Housing Finance and Development Centre of Finland (ARA) and the Regional State Administrative Agencies (AVI). The Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centres) have an official and expert role in climate work at the regional level, and Metsähallitus is responsible for certain matters, such as increasing carbon sinks.
Counties and municipalities playing their part in curbing climate change
Municipalities play an important role in climate policy. Their task is to translate internationally and nationally agreed climate targets into practical actions that fit local conditions. Municipalities can promote areas such as low-carbon modes of transport, energy-efficient construction and climate-friendly school meals.
Many Finnish municipalities have ambitious climate targets, such as achieving carbon neutrality. Several programmes and networks have been created to support climate action in municipalities and regions, such as the municipal Hinku and FISU networks and the EU's CANEMURE project.
Companies playing their part in climate change mitigation
The largest companies are part of EU emissions trading, but other companies also play an important role in limiting emissions. Companies can promote climate change mitigation through actions such as innovating more sustainable products or business models.
Citizens as climate actors
We all have the opportunity to play our part and take action for the climate. We can help to curb climate change in many ways, such as adopting a more sustainable lifestyle, participating in NGO activities, and influencing decision-making.