Finns flock to sign petition for cheaper diesel, politicians cautious

A citizens initiative demanding the end of diesel tax met its target for 50,000 signatures in just one day, six months ahead of schedule.

Cities across the world might be looking for ways to reduce the use of harmful diesel engines, but in Finland there appears to be a groundswell of popular support for the dirty fuel.

On Monday Tuulikki Paavola published a citizens initiative demanding an end to Finland’s diesel tax was published, with the goal of getting at least the 50,000 signatures necessary for consideration by parliament. The target was smashed immediately, with 71,621 signatures by midnight on the first day.

Paavola told Yle she believes that news coverage of hikes in the price of diesel on Monday helped her cause.

“I think that people only just realised that things are like this now,” said Paavola, who lives in rural North Ostrobothnia.

The initiative will run for a further six months, and at the time of writing was approaching 100,000 signatures. Paavola herself says she is in no hurry to present the petition to parliament, and will wait until after the next elections due next spring.

Not so simple

Even then it might be difficult for anyone to cut the price of diesel. For one thing, the cost of the diesel tax is almost completely offset by a tax subsidy, ensuring the diesel tax has little effect.

For another, government is likely to seek to balance the loss of revenue with new or increased taxes elsewhere. On Tuesday even car industry lobbyists accepted that a cut in diesel taxes was unlikely.

“Taxes can’t just be left for the government to pay,” said Tero Kallio of the Association of Auto Industry in Finland. “Always when it’s one of these ‘make the state pay our taxes’ kind of issues, then plenty of people are happy to put their names down. But realism has been forgotten.”

Diesel cars have raised the ire of campaigners across the world in recent years, after Volkswagen was found to be flouting emissions standards for its diesel engines and adversely affecting air quality. In Germany urban authorities have been sued to enforce diesel bans, while an array of European cities have introduced bans, charges and low emission zones in a bid to curb the use of diesel engines.

Taxation is complicated

With elections due early next year, politicians were quick to comment on the petition. Both National Coalition leader and Finance Minister Petteri Orpo and Centre Party MP and Transport Minister Anne Berner said that they understood the depth of feeling over the issue.

"It's a really big number of signatures in a short space of time. It says that the issue raises feelings and there is pressure," said Orpo, adding that the matter could be encompassed in an upcoming reform of vehicle taxation.

"We have to look at how we can get more revenue than before straight into our infrastructure," said Berner.

Green leader Pekka Haavisto said that transport taxation has to be linked to the pollution caused by any one mode of transport.

"You can't decide taxation policy on the basis of short term moves in price, but the Greens' goal has always been that taxation would direct consumption to make it less harmful to the environment and the climate," said Haavisto. "Now our tax system has been planned as a revenue collection structure."

The deadline for the citizens initiative is 12 May 2019, the month after parliamentary elections are due.

yle.fi
Finns flock politicians
If you notice an error, highlight the text you want and press Ctrl + Enter to report it to the editor
2 views in december
I recommend
No recommendations yet

Comments

Post your comment to communicate and discuss this article.

Society
The ministry also wants the national communications regulator to determine whether Trafi's other consumer services can be safely restored on Wednesday. The Ministry of Transport and Communications has asked the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority Ficora, to assess data privacy and security on the web services of the Finnish Transport Safety Agency, Trafi. The request follows a recent public backlash to Trafi's decision to open an online database wh...
Society
Taking a train between Finland and Estonia will be possible by Christmas 2024, says the entrepreneur behind one of two massive tunnel projects being planned. Last week the FinEst Bay Area Helsinki-Tallinn tunnel project received 100 million euros from a Dubai-based construction group ARJ Holding – the first external financing made towards the estimated 15-billion-euro effort. Peter Vesterbacka - a man who made a fortune as a marketing boss at mobile gaming...
Incidents
Several protest marches took place in Helsinki on Thursday evening. Police intervened to forcibly remove swastika flags from Neo-Nazi demonstrators. Police said on Thursday that they will open an investigation into neo-Nazis flying swastika flags in downtown Helsinki. Four protesters had reportedly been taken into police custody. Two processions made their way through Helsinki city centre Thursday evening. The neo-Nazi Kohti vapautta ('toward freedom') dem...
Society
Most of Friday’s papers focus on Thursday's gala at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki where Finland's movers, shakers and honourees were invited to celebrate the nation’s 101 years of independence. Traditionally, media attention has centered on the best-dressed guests and this year was no exception. According to tabloid Ilta-Sanomat, among the most elegant invitees this year was MP Jaana Pelkonen, who wore a bright yellow sleeveless dress by French desig...
Society
Helsinki handed over five decommissioned trams on Monday, two of which will make their way to the Mikkeli city centre for display. Helsinki City Transport (HKL) handed over five antique trams to new owners on Monday after a competition to see where the decommissioned vehicles would be best suited. The HKL competition prompted 94 applications from across the country to receive the trams free of charge. Three of the trams will remain in Helsinki, while two w...
Society
People in Finland are prescribed more antibiotics than the EU average, police warn of neo-Nazi marches and the Finland 100 satellite blasted off. Finnish medical patients use broad-spectrum antibiotics more commonly than the EU average, even though bacteria in Finland are not especially resistant to antibiotic treatments. Daily Helsingin Sanomat writes that attacking a large number of different bacteria at once is all too common, and may lead to resistance...
Society
This year's Finnish National Prize went to a rock star, a fashion designer, a film director and others for their contributions to cultural life in Finland. The Finnish National Prize, an annual cultural award from the Ministry of Education and Culture, went to Henry "Remu" Aaltonen, the drummer and vocalist of the 1970s band Hurriganes; the fashion designer behind Ivana Helsinki, Paola Suhonen; and Academy Award nominated director Selma Vilhunen. This year...
Artist's impression of the proposed Tallinn-Helsinki tunnel
Dubai engineering solutions giant ARJ Holding Ltd is investing €100 million in the Tallinn-Helsinki tunnel project, tunnel designer Peter Vesterbacka announced at a press conference on Monday. Mr Vesterbacka, chief of FinEst Bay Area, the group behind the tunnel project, pointed out the total cost of the tunnel stands at €15 billion, with an investment period of 30 years; the tunnel itself has a projected life span of 120 years, he said. Finest Bay Area Le...
Society
The volume of permits for apartment buildings plunged by more than half, a likely harbinger of an economic slowdown next year. Construction work for the Tripla complex in Helsinki's Pasila district. Image: Jyrki Lyytikkä / Yle An exceptionally low number of new construction permits were granted from June to September, says Statistics Finland. Volume was down by 25.4 percent from a year earlier.  The biggest drop was in commercial and office buildings, wher...