Annual Climate Report – monitoring Finland’s emissions in 2021

The Annual Climate Report sums up information on the trends in emissions in Finland, implementation of climate policy and achievement of emission reduction targets. The process is led by the Ministry of the Environment. This website provides a brief description of the trends in emissions in Finland.

Total emissions in Finland

Finland’s climate emissions fell to a record low level in 2020.

  • In the emissions trading sector, emissions decreased by almost 16% from the previous year because less coal and peat was burned than before. The main reason for this was the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts.
  • In the effort sharing sector, emissions did not decrease as sharply, but they were still three per cent lower than in the previous year.
  • However, Finland’s target of being carbon neutral by 2035 will not be achieved unless new measures to reduce emissions are introduced fast in all sectors.

Emissions decreased because the COVID-19 pandemic reduced traffic and transport volumes.

What was also important for the climate was that the carbon sink of the land use sector grew due to the decrease in wood harvesting.

Finland’s emissions have decreased in all sectors since 2005, with the exception of agriculture. Although this is the right direction, the Government’s target of achieving carbon neutrality in Finland by 2035 requires faster cuts in emissions, especially in the non-emissions trading sectors.

A lot is happening in climate policy in 2021. Emission reductions in the coming years will be boosted by the new Medium-term Climate Change Policy Plan extending to 2035, the updated Climate and Energy Strategy and the Climate Plan for the Land Use Sector. A process to reform the EU climate legislation will begin in 2021, and this will have impacts on Finland’s climate policy obligations as well.

Trends in greenhouse gas emissions and necessary emission reductions

Net emissions mean the sum of emissions from the emissions trading and non-emissions trading sectors deducted by the net sink of the land use sector. Carbon neutrality requires zero net emissions. Instant preliminary data is given for 2020. Further measures are needed to reduce emissions by 11 million tonnes. (Data of the diagram as .xlsx file)

Emissions from consumption

Consumer choices play an important role with respect to emissions. The consumption expenditure of us Finns keeps growing but, on the other hand, the products and services consumed produce less emissions. With respect to emissions, consumption is divided into four categories: housing, mobility, food and all other goods and services.

  • Emissions from consumption in 2020 are not yet available, but in 2019 they totalled 10.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. This is far from the consumption that is considered sustainable, which is as low as 2.5 tonnes per year.
  • Emissions from household consumption declined between 2010 and 2015, and in the past four years they stayed about the same.
  • Since 2000 the average carbon footprint of Finns has varied from 9.9 tonnes to 13.5 tonnes a year.
  • The Finnish Climate Change Panel estimates that the carbon footprint of households should decrease by as much as 70% in order for Finland to achieve its carbon neutrality target by 2035.

According to the Finnish Environment Institute, emissions from consumption have decreased due to more advanced technologies, which means that we now have products and services that produce less emissions. What people consume is also changing. Besides the progress in technologies, in the long term lifestyles and consumption will also be affected by other megatrends, such as urbanisation, the climate crisis, digitalisation, diminishing natural resources, population ageing and immigration.

At the moment, however, emissions from consumption in Finland are not on the decrease despite the factors that reduce emissions. The main reason for this is the growth in consumption expenditure. The more money people have, the more they will consume. This can be seen especially in choices related to mobility.

Consumption expenditure of households and greenhouse gas emissions from consumption

Consumption expenditure and emissions from consumption are growing. In 2019, 30% of emissions originated from mobility, 28% from housing and energy, 18% from food and 25% from other goods and services. (Data of the diagram as .xlsx file)

Emissions from buildings

Phasing out oil heating has been a talked about for a long time. The numerous measures to promote this are reflected as a decrease in emissions.

  • Emissions from buildings have decreased steadily, even though there is some annual variation caused by weather.
  • In 2020 emissions were record low due to the warm winter.
  • The aim is to make the transition to low-carbon heating in Finland in a controlled and fair manner, and investment grants are awarded to boost the process to phase out oil heating.

The main reasons for the successful reduction of emissions in the heating of buildings include the phasing out of oil heating and better energy efficiency thanks to the new building stock and renovation construction.

People have been encouraged to change the heating method with grants for small residential buildings, energy grants and tax credits for household expenses. The support measures, as well as the taxation of heating oil and increases in it, have prompted Finns to find alternative heating method for their homes.

The action plan completed in 2021 includes a number of new measures targeted at private and public sector operators to phase out oil heating.

Emissions from individual heating in buildings

The share of light fuel oil in all emissions from individual heating, million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. The use of light fuel oil has decreased by more than half between 2005 and 2020, and the target is to completely abandon it by 2030. Instant preliminary data is given for 2020. (Data of the diagram as .xlsx file)

Emissions from transport

A fifth of Finland’s climate emissions are generated by transport. At the moment, emissions are decreasing too slowly to reach the targets.

  • In 2020, transport emissions accounted for 37% of Finland’s emissions in the effort sharing sector.
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was some decrease in emissions from transport.
  • The decrease is too slow relative to the target.

The volumes of emissions from transport depend on three factors: the distances driven, energy efficiency of vehicles and fuels used. In urban areas the distances driven have started to decrease slightly.

The number of kilometres driven on the roads decreased during the pandemic, but otherwise these have been growing steadily. On the positive side, the number of electric cars and the share of biofuels are increasing.

The biggest problem in terms of reducing emissions in Finland is the slow renewal of the vehicle fleet. Efforts have been made to boost the renewal through e.g. scrapping premiums and subsidies for purchasing electric cars.

Numerous measures have been introduced to reduce transport emissions, and these should be fair and just to all Finns. The Government has also boosted climate measures in the transport sector by introducing a Roadmap to Fossil-Free Transport in spring 2021. The Roadmap lists means by which Finland will reach the target of halving domestic transport emissions from the level of 2005 by 2030, as stated in the Government Programme.

Trend in emissions from transport

Emissions from transport are decreasing, but too slowly. The additional measures that have been planned will be needed to reach the target by 2030. Instant preliminary data is given for 2020. (Data of the diagram as .xlsx file)

Emissions from agriculture

Emissions from agriculture have stayed about the same for years. Agricultural emissions originate from manure management, the digestion of farm animals, agricultural soil and liming. Small amounts of emissions are also generated by urea fertilisation and burning of plant waste in fields.

  • In 2020 emissions from agriculture accounted for 14% of Finland’s emissions.
  • Emissions from agriculture have not decreased for years.
  • The reform of the EU agricultural policy and the Climate Plan for the Land Use Sector are hoped to boost the reduction of these emissions.

Efforts are made to reduce emissions from agriculture without compromising domestic food production and global food security. Many of the measures to reduce emissions are already in use or will be introduced soon.

The measures include perennial cultivation, afforestation, increasing biogas production and raising the groundwater level through controlled subsurface drainage. The Government has also emphasised the role of manure management, nutrient recycling and carbon sequestration in climate work in the agricultural sector.

The objective of the reform of the EU agricultural policy is to target 40% of the funding coming to the EU agricultural sector to climate actions. In addition, the Member States must allocate 30% of the rural development funds from the EU to national environmental and climate measures. Negotiations on the content of the reform continued until the end of June 2021, and the new agricultural policy will enter into force in 2023.

In Finland, major achievements in reducing emissions from agriculture are expected from the Climate Plan for the Land Use Sector to be completed in 2021.

The Medium-term Climate Change Policy Plan also aims to reduce food loss and waste and promote eating in accordance with the nutrition recommendations. A lot of food loss and waste is produced in Finland.

Trend in emissions from agriculture and emission sources in the effort sharing sector

Emissions from agriculture remained about the same in 2005-2020. In 2020, 3.6 Mt of the emissions came from agricultural soil, 2.1 Mt from the digestion of farm animals, 0.7 Mt from manure management and 0.2 Mt from liming. Instant preliminary data is given for 2020. Besides the figures shown, small amounts of emissions are generated by urea fertilisation and burning of plant waste in fields. (Data of the diagram as .xlsx file)

Monitoring of climate measures in previous years

Under the Climate Change Act, the Government submits the Annual Climate Report to Parliament once a year. Reports have also been published concerning the years 2019 and 2020.