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Climate action must be rapid

Because it is such a broad issue, tackling climate change involves both small actions and society-wide measures that require everyone's involvement. Three of the most important areas for climate measures are emissions reduction, growth of carbon sinks, and adaptation to climate change.
A demonstration in a square.
© Anna Muotka

Climate change is driven by greenhouse gas emissions that result from human activity. These emissions are warming the climate. This warming changes ecosystems, which in turn affects the functioning of both organisms and human society. The impacts are not evenly distributed – the world’s poorest are those that are most severely affected. The wealthy, meanwhile, carry the greatest responsibility for tackling the impacts of climate change. What is needed are society-wide measures that cut emissions and prepare us for the changes ahead. 

Mitigating climate change means reducing emissions 

Climate change can be mitigated by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The majority of these emissions consist of carbon dioxide, which is emitted primarily by the energy production and transport sectors. Mitigation measures are implemented in all sectors of society, however, and they are also visible in the everyday life of Finnish households. Key mitigation measures include energy saving, transitioning towards renewable energy use, sustainable diets, and a range of policy measures such as emissions trading. 

Finland is guided by international and national climate targets

Finland’s actions are guided by both international and national climate targets. At the international level, climate policy is guided by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The European Union’s climate policy guides both the EU’s joint actions and the actions of the individual Member States. This EU climate policy consists of many parts, including emissions trading, emission reduction targets for sectors not included in emissions trading, and the LULUCF Regulation.

At the national level, Finland is guided by both the above-mentioned commitments and also Finland’s own targets for carbon neutrality and climate adaptation.

UN target of 1.5ºC

Mitigating climate change is a global challenge that requires all countries to play their part. 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.

Objectives set by the European Union

Targets for 2030 and 2050

The foundations of the European Union’s climate policy are set out in the 1992 UN Convention on Climate Change, the supplementary Kyoto Protocol, and the Paris Agreement.

The EU’s own goal for 2030 is to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to below 55% of 1990 levels. The EU’s longer-term objective is to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. Both targets are binding on the Member States, as they have been enshrined in the European Climate Law, which entered into force in summer 2021.

In 2019, the European Commission also launched the European Green Deal, which presents the means and methods for achieving climate neutrality.

EU emissions trading

The EU limits emissions through emissions trading. The idea behind emissions trading is that greenhouse gases should be reduced wherever it is cheapest to do so. In practice, emissions trading means that an industrial plant can purchase emission permits from the EU’s common emissions market. Such purchases are made if this is a cheaper option than reducing these emissions. Sometimes the cheaper option for an industrial plant is to reduce emissions from its own production, in which case it may sell its emissions permits to other actors within the emissions trading market.

EU emissions trading accounts for around 45% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions. Emissions trading covers industrial and energy production plants as well as air transport within the European Economic Area.

The EU’s objective for 2030 is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the emissions trading sector by 43% from 2005 levels. In July 2021, however, the European Commission proposed a new target for the emissions trading sector of a 61% reduction by 2030.

Non-ETS sectors

Sectors outside of the emissions trading scheme (the ‘effort sharing sector’) have their own emissions reduction target. The target for 2030 is that non-ETS sectors reduce their emissions by 30% from 2005 levels.

The LULUCF Regulation and carbon sinks

The LULUCF Regulation regulates forest use, changes to forest use, and giving due consideration to forests in climate objectives. The regulation covers the functioning of forests, agricultural land and wetland as either carbon sinks or sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

The objective of the regulation is that the forest and land use sector as a whole would not be a source of emissions at the EU level. In July 2021, the European Commission submitted a proposal for a revised LULUCF Regulation in which country-specific targets would be set for growth of carbon sinks in the land use sector.

Finland’s national targets

Finland’s climate policy is guided by international climate agreements and EU climate policy. In addition, Finland’s own Climate Act also guides policy at the national level. The Climate Act details Finland’s emission reduction targets and the climate policy planning system.

EU emissions trading in Finland

EU emissions trading also covers Finland’s emissions. In Finland, the emissions trading sector covers around 40% of total emissions.

In addition, Finland has set the goal of reducing by 2030 its greenhouse gas emissions from non-ETS sectors by 39% from 2005 levels.

The LULUCF Regulation in Finland

The EU LULUCF Regulation on land use, land use change and forestry applies also to Finland. According to the LULUCF Regulation, net emissions from land use, land use change and forestry must be zero for the period 2021–2030. 

In July 2021, the Commission submitted a proposal for a revised LULUCF Regulation in which country-specific targets would be set for growth of carbon sinks in the land use sector.

Finland’s carbon neutrality target

The Climate Act states that Finland must achieve carbon neutrality by 2035 and become carbon negative after this date.

Targets for adaptation

The climate is changing: it is no longer possible to entirely prevent climate change. In addition to mitigating climate change, Finland must also adapt to its impacts.

Adaptation to climate change means both policy measures and practical measures aimed at reducing, preparing for and adapting to the various impacts of climate change and related risks. The aim of adaptation is to reduce the risks to people and the experienced impacts. In addition, adaptation also seeks to take advantage of the opportunities presented by climate change.

In Finland, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is responsible for coordinating climate change adaptation at the national level.

Finland has published a National Climate Change Adaptation Plan that extends to 2030 and covers the key objectives and measures that can be used to prepare for and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

The EU’s European Climate Law also guides adaptation work in the EU and its Member States.


Adaptation is unavoidable

As climate change cannot be completely halted, we must adapt to the changing climate and its impacts. By adapting, we can reduce the negative impacts of climate change and take advantage of any positive changes. Such adaptation is needed in all sectors of society, and it must take into account local conditions, as climate change affects different areas in very different ways. In practice, it is local municipalities which are responsible in Finland for practical adaptation measures.  

The change must be fair

Climate change affects different people in different ways. At the same time, some people are better positioned than others to adapt to climate change. A person’s level of vulnerability depends on factors such as wealth, geographical location, age and gender. In addition, the per capita emissions of the world’s poorest countries amount to only a fraction of those of wealthier countries. Wealthier countries carry the greater responsibility for mitigating climate change.  

Joint matters are agreed upon in international climate negotiations

The most important international climate change conference is the Conference of Parties, or COP. This conference was held for the first time in 1995 and annually thereafter (except in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic).

The Conference of Parties makes decisions that relate to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The Framework Convention entered into force in 1994 and has been ratified by a total of 197 parties. The Conference of Parties also agreed and signed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol.

Impacts of climate change in Finland

In Finland, climate change is already impacting weather conditions, nature, and the lives of Finnish people. The signs of change are already visible: the growing season is longer, quantities of ice and snow are decreasing, flood risks are increasing, and droughts may become a common phenomenon.

The greatest impacts, however, are still to be seen. The impacts of climate change, such as the global increase in floods and other extreme weather phenomena, affect global food production and the stability of the global economy and of different communities, leading to indirect impacts on Finland. In addition, Finland faces the direct impacts of climate change. We are seeing changes in agricultural production conditions which can bring both benefits and harm. Many other industries, such as forestry, fisheries, reindeer husbandry and tourism, are also having to adapt. The everyday life of Finns is changing as winters become milder and summers become hotter. The need for heating is decreasing, but we also have to endure heatwaves more often than before.

Climate change is particularly affecting Finland’s water systems

Climate change is affecting Finland’s water resources, water quality and water quantity.

The hydrological services of the Finnish Environment Institute produce up-to-date information on the water situation throughout Finland. Syke provides information on flood risk management, river basin regulation, flood forecasting, hydrological modelling and land use planning, as well as providing data for research projects. The services include a planning service for hydrological observation networks, a water management assessment service and a hydraulic modelling service.

Versatile water expertise in Finland and around the world (

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Finnish Environment Institute (Syke)