Many countries have embraced a climate target of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, but one country is taking it further.
Finland’s parliament passed a new Climate Change Act last week committing itself to achieving net-zero emissions by 2035 and negative emissions by 2040. While the timeline itself is notable, the act also makes Finland the first country to make a legally-binding climate negativity pledge, Protocol reported.
“High income countries have to take a progressive and active role when it comes to tackling climate change,” Finnish environment minister Emma Kari told Climate Home News.
The target was decided based on the work of The Finnish Climate Change Panel, which calculated Finland’s “fair share” of the world’s remaining carbon budget based on its population size, its ability to pay and its historical responsibility for the climate crisis.
“The results for Finland are clear in all cases. Finland should be GHG (greenhouse gas) neutral during the early 2030s and clearly net negative from 2040 onwards,” the study authors wrote.
Based on the same criteria, Germany and the EU should also reach net-zero in the early to mid-2030s, the analysis found.
“In the light of this result, the climate neutrality target for 2050 is highly insufficient and should be brought forward,” the report authors wrote.
The law also sets new targets for emissions reductions of 60 percent of 1990 levels by 2030 and 80 percent by 2040, according to Protocol. Achieving negative emissions will require Finland to actively remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, in addition to merely lowering emissions.
Some countries have already managed to achieve carbon negativity. These are mostly smaller countries like Bhutan and Suriname that have lots of forested area and can achieve negative emissions by protecting natural carbon sinks and keeping greenhouse gas emissions low.
Finland faces a challenge in this regard because its land use was a source rather than a sink of emissions for the first time in 2021, according to new data from Statistics Finland. The country is three-fourths forest, according to Climate Home News, but deforestation has been increasing in the last decade, and Statistics Finland said that trees were being cleared at a faster rate and replanted at a slower one.
University of Eastern Finland international law professor Kati Kulovesi told Protocol that the new act was “remarkable” but still had room for improvement.
“There is an important gap between current measures and those required to reach the targets, and now there is a legal obligation to act,” Kulovesi said.