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WATCH: Finland signs world’s most ambitious climate target into law

Finland’s Environment Minister Emma Kari. Picture: Emma Kari/Facebook

Finland’s Environment Minister Emma Kari. Picture: Emma Kari/Facebook

Published Aug 5, 2022

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Finland has passed arguably the world’s most ambitious climate target into law as it aims to become the first developed nation to reach net zero by 2035 and net negative by 2040.

According to Net Zero Tracker, only South Sudan has a more ambitious net-zero date than 2035 and, as a developing country, its 2030 target is highly dependent on international finance.

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Independent economists from the Finnish Climate Change Panel worked out the country’s fair share of the 420 gigatons that the world can emit before reaching its threshold to limit global warming to 1.5ºC.

The panel based this fair share on Finland’s share of the global population, its ability to pay to reduce emissions and its historic responsibility for causing climate change. It is believed to be the first target to have been set in this way.

Finland’s Environment Minister Emma Kari told Climate Home news site that it was “very important” that the target was set with researchers and people from the climate science community. She added: “High-income countries have to take a progressive and active role when it comes to tackling climate change.”

Most developed countries including the EU states and the US have set 2050 net-zero targets. The Finnish analysis found that Germany and the EU should reach net zero in the early to mid-2030s.

Asked if the EU should set an earlier target date, Kari said targets “should be based on climate science, on the Paris agreement … if the target is not compatible with the Paris Agreement … then we have to turn it up”.

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Kari described Finland’s target as “ambitious but achievable” and said it had broad cross-party support in Finland. Kari is a Green Party minister in a coalition of five centre-to-left-wing parties.

These ambitious climate goals are highly dependent on Finland's forests which cover around 75% of its land area. Statistics Finland released figures in May 2022, which showed that these forests had, for the first time, released more greenhouse gases than they absorbed.

Emissions from deforestation have been rising over the last decade, cancelling out emissions reductions from energy as the country moves away from fossil fuels. This was due to trees being cut down faster and planted slower, Statistics Finland found.

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Finnish logging companies turn their trees into pulp and paper and sell them to be burned for energy, which is often controversially advertised as climate-friendly and renewable.

Kari told Climate Home that the ministry of agriculture and forestry was working on its first-ever climate plan.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sped up Finland’s energy transition, Kari added, as the government pushed ahead with wind power and making buildings more energy efficient and less reliant on fossil fuel heating.

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The target will be met without relying on international carbon offsets, Kari said, where one country pays another to reduce emissions on its behalf.

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