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EU hits Finland with high emissions reduction target

The EU has issued its member states with target proposals for reducing national emissions levels. The target affects traffic, housing and agricultural industries. Only two other countries were slapped with a higher reduction goal.

Traktori pellolla.
EU emissions reduction targets are causing concern in Finland. Image: Jyrki Lyytikkä / Yle

The European Commission has announced new emissions reduction targets for its member states, strapping Finland with an especially high objective.

European countries need to reduce their industrial emissions by between 0-40 percent during the period of 2021-2030. Finland and Denmark are expected to cut their pollution levels by 39 percent – only Sweden and Luxemburg were issued higher reduction targets.

At the lower end of the scale Poland and Croatia are urged to lower their emission levels by just 7 percent from their 2005 figures. Estonia's target is a cut of 13 percent.

The Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT) says that the cost of reduction targets of more than 36 percent rises significantly in comparison to targets under that percentage.

Cars, farms and flats

A new bill proposal affects sectors outside of emissions trading measures such as traffic, agriculture and housing. In the EU 60 percent of emissions are caused by these sectors, some 50 percent in Finland, where traffic is the leading cause of pollution. Reducing its adverse ecological effects is also more expensive than cutting the pollution levels of emissions trading industries, which can purchase emissions allowances from abroad.

The Paris climate conference made a commitment to keeping climate change at under 1.5 degrees Celsius globally. EU countries offered to minimise its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2030. The European Commission's current targets may serve as a model for curbing emissions in other countries, too.

Finland has previously announced its aim of ending the use of coal in electricity and heating production, and halving its consumption of crude oil.

"Not hopeless"

VTT research professor Miimu Airaksinen says that the EU targets are ambitious.

"But there are many compensatory choices that can be made. Some work has already been done in this area in Finland, and the task is far from hopeless," Airaksinen says.

Miimu Airaksinen.
Research professor Miimu Airaksinen. Image: Yle

Emissions cannot be curbed to the Paris agreement's levels without reducing all of society's emissions.

"Traffic is one of the big ones; bio fuel and electric and natural gas vehicles help with the effort, as do measures promoting non-motorised and public transport. It's up to the government to choose which measures to emphasise – probably a mixed bag of different methods," Airaksinen says.

Agricultural interest group MTK considers the 39-percent target extremely high. The organisation says that the target risks agricultural exports to countries with less sustainable food production methods than in Finland.

The Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK) says that transport costs may skyrocket and tourism may suffer if the Commission's target is enforced.

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