Sitra: Finland can halve its emissions with cost-neutral and cost-positive measures

Finland has the financial and technological capability to reduce its emissions by 60 per cent by 2030, indicates a study conducted by McKinsey and the Finnish Innovation Fund (Sitra).

Sitra on Monday reported that the country can reduce its emissions by almost 50 per cent with measures that generate no additional costs, or even savings, during their life cycle compared to current solutions, with wind power and electric transport especially presenting opportunities to reduce emissions cost-efficiently.

Finland is one of 183 countries that have committed to pursuing efforts to limit global temperature rise from pre-industrial levels to 1.5ºC under the Paris Agreement, an agreement adopted in December 2015 within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reiterated last month that urgent global efforts are required to limit global warming to what it said is a crucial threshold.

“The IPCC called attention to the need for all countries to take urgent action to cut emissions or risk allowing the costs of climate change spiral out of control,” comments Mari Pantsar, the head of carbon-neutrality and circular economy at Sitra.

“Our study demonstrates that Finland has the financial and technological capability to accomplish emissions cuts that exceed the current targets. However, decision makers must take urgent action to ensure we are on the right path,” she stresses.

Sitra on Monday said its roadmap for reducing emissions would bring the country closer to meeting both its carbon-neutrality objective and its commitments under the Paris Agreement.

The roadmap consists of measures in four sectors producing the most greenhouse gas emissions in Finland: buildings, manufacturing, transport, and heat and electricity.

“The electrification of road transport will be the single most cost-efficient way to reduce emissions with batteries rapidly becoming more and more affordable. Wind power, in turn, will be the most cost-efficient method to generate electricity, also when taking into consideration the storage capacity needs,” tells Janne Peljo, the head of climate solutions at Sitra.

Sitra states that the number of electric cars on Finnish roads could rise from 11,000 to 800,000 by 2030 – a number that is three times as high as the official objective of 250,000 and would make up roughly 30 per cent of the vehicle stock of Finland.

A prerequisite for the increase is that an estimated 1.5 billion euros is invested in establishing a comprehensive network of charge points.

Sitra also recommends that the wind power capacity be raised from two to seven gigawatts by 2030 – a feat that will require the allocation of sufficient resources for permit procedures and the production chain.

The other key measures include replacing fossil fuels with biomass in combined heat and electricity production, replacing fossil fuels with biogas or biomass in industrial heat production, and adopting heat pumps and electrical heating systems in residential and commercial buildings.

Finland, however, must also nurture its natural carbon sinks, particularly in light of plans to ramp up the use of biomass in manufacturing, underscores Sitra.

The roadmap will also necessitate the adoption of a national carbon-neutrality strategy that outlines the path to carbon-neutrality for all sectors and promotes predictability across electoral terms.

It is also critical that the government takes action to steer both individual and private sector investments towards low-emission solutions, adds Peljo.

“The government’s primary duty is to ensure the infrastructure required by the emissions cuts is in place and businesses and individuals have an incentive to choose low-emission alternatives. It must also be ensured the existing regulation and incentives do not prevent or inhibit investments in low-emission solutions,” he says.

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