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Finnish government sued over emissions inaction in first-ever climate trial

Activists say that Finland's government has failed to act on its ambitious carbon neutrality target.

Finland's land-use sector, including forestry and farming, is now a net source – not a sink – of carbon emissions. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle
Yle News

Finland's first-ever climate trial is on the way, after environmental organisations announced their lawsuit aiming to take the government to the Supreme Administrative Court over what they say are insufficient measures to act against climate change.

Greenpeace and the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation say that the government's own target of carbon neutrality by 2035 is in danger, if more action isn't taken.

The organisations say the government's Annual Climate Report has not taken sufficient notice of data published earlier this year showing that Finland's land-use sector is now a net emitter of greenhouse gas emissions.

Finland's forests are growing more slowly, and in 2021 more trees were felled than at any other time in Finland's history.

The organisations say that an unprecedented collapse in carbon removal by Finnish forests has removed the basis on which the country's climate policies are decided.

According to the Finnish Climate Change Act, the government is legally obliged to work towards carbon neutrality by 2035, and its actions are evaluated in an annual climate report.

The latest report — the first to be submitted since the act was adopted by parliament in May — was accepted by the legislature in October.

The report acknowledged a collapse in Finnish forests' ability to absorb carbon dioxide, but shied away from recommending additional measures to compensate for it.

The environmental organisations are therefore seeking a ruling from the administrative court on whether the government has neglected its obligations under the Climate Change Act to plan additional climate actions to stay on track for the legal climate target of carbon neutrality by 2035.

More precise figures in December

The Ministry of the Environment said in the climate report that the initial figures released by Statistics Finland in late May cannot be compared to previous years' numbers, because the calculation methods are not the same.

Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Antti Kurvinen (Cen) told Yle in June that he takes the collapsing carbon sink numbers seriously, but emphasised that the numbers were preliminary.

The environmental organisations, however, are not waiting for the final figures in December, or the upcoming report from the Natural Resources Institute Finland on the slowdown in growth rates of Finnish forests.

They say that complaints have to be filed within 30 days of the announcement of a government decision.

The NGOs argue that the government should not have filed its annual climate change report without additional emissions-cutting measures to compensate for the collapse in carbon drawdown, and that the report must be rewritten.

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