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Finnish PM seeks lower taxes on plant-based food

Antti Rinne says he aims to calm the debate over climate-related measures.

Prime Minister Antti Rinne at the Helsinki Book Fair on Sunday, 27 October. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva

The government's ambitious climate targets can be achieved without negatively impacting people's everyday lives, says Prime Minister Antti Rinne.

This is despite the fact that all possible measures must be sought to fend off global warming, he told Yle on Sunday. Rinne did not directly rule out rationing purchases of petrol and diesel, as proposed by a panel of economic researchers last week.

"Personally, I don't eliminate any alternative before it has been studied and considered whether it would be a good way to move things forward," Rinne said during the traditional 'Prime Minister's Interview Hour' programme on Yle's Radio Suomi on Sunday.

"Let's make vegetables a bit cheaper"

One such measure, he said, could be more "climate-friendly" food, as suggested in the government programme adopted in early June. Rinne said that taxes could be lowered on vegetables, but not on meat.

"I should have said this directly last spring, but I'm saying it now, in other words let's make vegetables a bit cheaper through taxation and leave meat as it is. That's how we'll guide [consumption]," Rinne said.

Rinne's centre-left cabinet, which took office nearly five months ago, has ambitious goals when it comes to countering climate change, but it has been criticised for a lack of concrete means to attain them.

Carbon-neutral by 2035

The PM says that Finland will reach carbon-neutrality by 2035 by cutting emissions from transport and energy production. As he sees it, there is no need to intervene in process industry, or to make major changes in agriculture.

"They can be realised through the kind of policy where regular people's day-to-day lives certainly change, but not for the worse," Rinne said.

As decisions are made, corrective decisions can also be made that eliminate social inequalities, he said.

The premier told reporters that he wants to calm the debate over measures aimed at combating climate change, and that he is confident that the government's goals will be reached.

"This discussion is now going a bit overboard here and there, spurring fears and uncertainty among regular citizens that their own lives will now immediately be destroyed by measures against climate change," Rinne suggested.

"In this debate, I'd warn various actors that we don't need to do the kinds of things that would significantly undermine or worsen regular people's daily lives."