Skip to content
The article is more than 2 years old

Sitra: Finland must stop burning peat sooner

In 2018, Finland's burning of peat fuel was the source of more carbon emissions than that of all passenger vehicles combined.

Turvesuo palaa Sodankylässä.
Peat energy is used for heat and electricity in Finland, but causes high CO2 emissions. Image: Jarno Sukuvaara / Reitti24 -valvontakone
Yle News

The Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra has proposed an accelerated schedule to end the use of peat energy in Finland.

The body justified the proposal on the grounds that the burning of peat in power plants causes high CO2 emissions in proportion to the amount of energy generated.

In addition to this, the raising of peat from bogs causes significant soil emissions, damages salt marshes and contaminates surrounding water bodies.

"Peat has significant climate and environmental impacts," project manager Outi Haanperä from Sitra's climate solutions team told Yle. "For this reason, we have tried to present stepping stones on how it would be possible to start and implement a fair transition in the peat sector."

A report published by Sitra on Tuesday pointed out that in 2018 the burning of peat fuel was "responsible for nearly 12 percent of Finland’s total greenhouse gas emissions," a figure which is more than the total emissions from passenger vehicles.

In the same year, peat provided just 4.5 percent of Finland’s energy needs. Employment in the industry accounts for 0.1 percent of the Finnish workforce, and the share of added value produced by Finland’s economy is also less than 0.1 percent.

A phased transition

Finland's climate and geography favours bog and peat bog formation, and peat is primarily used in Finland as a source of heat and electricity.

However, the use of the abundant resource has fallen sharply since the peak years of the 2000s, due mainly to the tightening of EU emissions trading and a significant increase in the use of waste wood.

A 2019 survey suggested a majority of Finnish people would support a ban on peat burning, but the issue remains a political hot potato, not least because of the potential loss in tax revenue.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s government has set a goal of at least halving the use of peat by 2030 as it seeks to become carbon neutral by 2035, but Sitra now proposes a number of measures which would help Finland achieve that goal earlier in a "socially and economically just transition".

One of the proposed measures involves abolishing the discounted tax rate for peat production, gradually from 2035. If this is not successful in helping Finland achieve its 2030 goal, then Sitra suggests that the "banning the burning of peat by law could be considered".

The fund also recommended engaging with the peat energy industry and "listening to entrepreneurs, lobbyists, authorities, municipalities, regions and decision-makers" and inviting them to participate in the planning of the transition.

"From a climate and environmental point of view, it would be justified to phase out peat as soon as possible," Sitra’s Tatu Leinonen, who led the preparation of the report, said. "An ambitious climate policy will bring prosperity to the whole of Finland in the long term, so it is justified to promote change so that the people at its centre can influence the transition measures."

Sitra's study estimated that the ending of peat energy in Finland would require an investment of between 1 and 1.6 billion euros, depending on the path the government chooses.

Latest: paketissa on 10 artikkelia