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Government debates how to meet emissions goals

Finland's centre-right government is deciding how the country will reach its emissions quotas in the coming decades. Expanded use of biofuels may not be a simple answer.

Mies tankkaa kaasuautoa
The government has high hopes for biogas. Image: Ville Välimäki / Yle

The UN's latest climate treaty, the Paris Agreement, took effect Friday. It includes ambitious promises by the EU countries to slash greenhouse gas emissions in a bid to slow global warming.

On Monday Finland's centre-right government is sitting down to decide how the country will reach its emissions quotas in the coming decades. On Friday, Yle learned that it plans to do so by accelerating the use of renewable energy, especially for transportation. Transport Minister Anne Berner confirmed that the cabinet intends to halve the amount of fossil fuel used in transport by 2030.

Biofuel boost

That would mean dramatically boosting domestic production of biofuels, with massive investments in bio-refineries. This would have the added benefits of creating new rural jobs, more tax revenues and energy independence.

On the other hand, environmentalists warn that forest-based biofuels don't necessarily cut emissions, and would mean heavier logging and less biodiversity.

The government's preliminary list also includes extended subsidies for wind power and the gradual shutdown of coal plants.

One step forward, two steps back?

But the leader of the opposition Greens party, Ville Niinistö, who was environment minister in the last government, took to Twitter on Monday to argue that the latest plans actually seem to be a step back from the previous blueprint, laid out in 2013.

Niinistö says that the previous plan called for a faster rollback of both coal and peat – another controversial domestic fuel source with dubious environmental impact.

"The Katainen government called for coal use to be mostly phased out by 2025 and use of peat cut by one third. Now the government is slowing this down," he wrote.

The government says it will finalise its plan by November 24 and present it to Parliament on the 29th.

The UN's latest climate conference, dubbed COP22, begins on Monday in Marrakech. Finnish Minister of Agriculture and the Environment Kimmo Tiilikainen will join the meeting for its final days, November 15-18.

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