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Most Finns support a ban on peat burning, poll suggests

Close to two thirds of those polled want to stop using peat as an energy source.

Savuavaa Suursuon turvetuotantoaluetta Taipalsaarella 11.6.2019
A June 2019 fire in eastern Finland's Suursuo peat production area. Image: Etelä-Karjalan pelastuslaitos

A clear majority of Finnish residents approve of Finland ceasing to use peat as a source of energy, suggest poll results in a Wednesday story from the Uutissuomalainen news consortium.

The story cites a recent survey conducted for the 15-newspaper syndicate that suggests that 62 percent of Finnish residents would like Finland to end the practice of using peat for fuel, either quickly or by weaning off burning the natural resource gradually.

Just 18 percent of the 1,000-odd respondents to the mid-August poll said they opposed a peat burning moratorium.

Peat bogs galore

Finland's climate and geography favours bog and peat bog formation, and the Finns use the abundant resource to produce heat and electricity. Finland's trade ministry calculates that peat provides around 6.2 percent of Finland's annual energy production.

The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) classifies peat as a "slowly renewable" fuel. The average re-growth rate of a single peat bog is between 1,000 and 5,000 years. Many drained and used peat bogs are forested in Finland instead of being allowed to renew, leading to a lower CO2 storage rate than that of the original peat bog.

The IPCC has measured the carbon dioxide emission intensity of peat as higher than that of coal and natural gas. The contribution of peat to greenhouse gas emissions of Finland may exceed 10 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per year – equal to the total emissions of all passenger-car traffic in the country.

Minister refuses to cut state subsidies

In a related interview in the Keskisuomalainen daily, Finance Minister Mika Lintilä rejected a recent proposal from conservative National Coalition Party parliamentary chair Kai Mykkänen to end state subsidies for the peat energy industry. The Finnish government supports the industry each year with a tax rebate.

Mykkänen suggested using the funds previously devoted to such tax relief to cancel out planned tax increases for petrol and diesel. Lintilä defended the subsidy, telling the paper that there are "clear grounds" for using peat as a domestic fuel for heating.

The current government programme has committed to halving the country's peat energy output by the year 2030. The IPCC has called on Finland to end the practice altogether, in order to protect Finland's carbon sink – a valuable weapon in the fight against climate change.

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