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Finnish emissions up by 2% - but down in agriculture and waste sectors

Emissions linked to logging and peat usage have become a political hot potato in ongoing government formation talks.

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Harvesting and burning peat emits more carbon dioxide than coal. Image: Yle

Finland's greenhouse gas emissions rose by two percent last year, according to preliminary figures released on Thursday by Statistics Finland.

The agency reports that the main drivers of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions growth were rising consumption of natural gas and peat.

Emissions not included in the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) exceeded Finland's annual allocation by nearly half a million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent.

The number-crunching office calculates that the country's 2018 emissions were equivalent to 56.5 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2 eq.). That was an increase of more than one million tons of CO2 eq. compared to the previous year.

Emissions not included in the EU's ETS remained around the same as the previous year but still overshot the country's annual EU-set allocation by 0.4 million tons of CO2 eq. Non-ETS emissions are calculated as the difference between the total emissions and verified emissions of the sectors in the ETS, not counting emissions from domestic civil aviation.

Peat and logging political hot potatoes

The figures do not include emissions attributed to land use, land use change and forestry (known as LULUCF).

The net sink of the LULUCF sector – or the amount of GHG emissions that it absorbed – was -14.2 million tons of CO2 eq. last year. That was 30 percent lower than in the year before.

The amount of emissions absorbed by Finland's vast forests has been the subject of much debate lately, including during the ongoing government formation talks, where the Centre Party and Greens have widely divergent views of how much logging should be allowed over the next four years.

Another matter of contention is how much Finland should rely on highly-polluting peat for energy. Its harvesting and burning release large amounts of GHG emissions. Ireland, the only other EU country that still uses peat as a significant source of energy, recently announced plans to phase it out.

Thanks to peat and natural gas use, energy-sector emissions swelled by three percent or 1.4 tons of CO2 eq.

Meanwhile those from industrial processes and product use were flat. Emissions from agriculture and the waste sector fell by three and six percent respectively, compared to 2017.

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