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Finnish government to boost cycling, electric cars under climate scheme

Electric cars, cycling, public transport and more renewable fuel use are among the measures in the Finnish government's new plan to curb the country's carbon footprint. Ordinary citizens are also tasked with doing their part, though the Environment Minister emphasises that the pact is not a mandate.

Pyöräilijä ajaa pyöräkaistalla.
Government wants less combustion engines on the roads. Image: Antti Pylväs / Yle

Finland's government agreed on a national plan on Thursday to drastically cut the country's emissions level by 2030. Ordinary consumers and citizens are also called upon to shrink their carbon footprints by changing how they commute and eat.

"This is about campaigning and encouraging people, not obligating anyone," Minister of Agriculture and the Environment Kimmo Tiilikainen said. "There's a big difference."

The Centre Party minister was asked why consumers are expected to halve their footprints by half, while the plan only calls for the government to bring greenhouse gas emissions down by 39 percent over the next 13 years.

"There are many ongoing challenges at the moment, and consumers or companies can make pledges to reduce the amount of emissions they are responsible for," Tiilikainen said. "I recall making such a pledge myself, to halve my consumption in a short time. This is one way of making these measures reality."

This is the first domestic climate policy of its breadth to be enacted in Finland. The measures are directed at sectors other than emissions trading, such as traffic, heating, waste disposal and agriculture.

Traffic best bet for reductions

The government's environmental plan of action indicates that cracking down on emissions from combustion engines in traffic would yield the greatest benefits for shrinking Finland's carbon footprint. Projects focusing on boosting foot traffic, biking and public transportation are the most likely to be used in city planning and to receive funding.

Electric and natural gas-powered cars are favoured in the scheme. Older models can be converted to burn natural gas or ethanol, and car sales reps are encouraged to promote low-emission vehicles to their customers.

Heating houses using oil creates massive amounts of pollutants. Tiilikainen says this is the reason why the government aims to end the use of oil heating in all of its properties by 2025.

"All public businesses and concerns are urged to do the same," the minister said.

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