First steps taken towards a low-carbon society, but marathon still lies ahead


World statesmen decided to give a Christmas present to future generations, agreeing to mitigate global warming by one and a half degrees Celsius this century. To achieve this goal, we will need to make the transition to a low-carbon society before 2050.

Prime Minister Sipilä’s Government has begun preparing Finland’s energy and climate strategy, which should provide milestones for Finland’s progress towards becoming a low-carbon society. The strategy looks ahead to 2030, in line with the next goal of the European Union’s framework for climate and energy policies.

Finland has already achieved a broad consensus on combating climate change – and has developed the required willpower. On the other hand, since there are many paths towards a low-carbon Finland, the challenge lies in finding a range of measures to which we are all ready to commit.

Roadmap to a low carbon society

In the period 2012–2014, VTT was coordinating a multidisciplinary project funded by Tekes, the Low Carbon Finland 2050 platform. The main objective of the project has been to sketch out alternative low-carbon paths and scenarios for Finland, to be analysed by a diverse group of experts. A range of computational modelling tools was used to assess the impact on Finland’s energy and national economy, and on the sustainable use of natural resources.

The work supported the Parliamentary Committee on Energy and Climate Issues in its preparation of a low-carbon roadmap for Finland. The goal of the platform was to initiate a broad-ranging and open debate involving the various actors, scientists and political decision-makers involved. This was largely achieved, but the greatest challenge is a communicative issue: how should the results be communicated and how should the transparency of the computational modelling methods, databases and source data used be increased?

Current position needs to be established before a direction is set

Contrary to the way it is often described, Finland’s energy system is highly advanced in many respects. After Sweden and Latvia, Finland has the EU’s third highest share of renewables from final energy consumption. Consumer electricity prices are among the lowest in the EU; at around half of German and Danish prices, for example. Efficiency of energy production in Finland is world class, thanks to combined heat and power production.

There is room for improvement, of course, since Finland imports more than 60% of its energy, but in this respect too, Finland outperforms the EU average.

Data quality is critical to determining our starting point.  Experts, decision-makers and the media need to know when they can trust the data they are given. We will easily stray off our new course if errors pile up.

How to plot the best route taking us through several decades?

The energy markets are in transition and the choices made over the next few years will determine our future direction for years to come. A series of measures has been set out in the Government Programme, such as phasing out the use of coal in energy production, halving oil imports for domestic use, and increasing the share of renewable energy to more than half from energy consumption by 2030. These measures are being taken in order to reduce Finland’s greenhouse gas emissions and improve its energy self-sufficiency, while also expediting the development of the Finnish cleantech sector.

No part of our society is unaffected by energy use; new technology will play a key role in energy development. We need to bring our greenhouse gas emissions close to zero in energy production and radically scale them down in industry, households, the service sector, agriculture and transport by 2050. We need to find the right measures and instruments for achieving this objective on a managed and sustainable basis. This will require a comprehensive and systematic analysis of the effects of measures, collaboration across disciplines and sector-boundaries and, ultimately, efforts and sustainable choices from every one of us, Finland’s consumers.

A long journey lies ahead and the road may well be bumpy, but our goal is within reach.

Tiina Koljonen

Research Team Leader

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.