Finland’s Climate Act was signed into law in June 2022, and includes in its scope binding multi-decade commitments that include both emissions reductions, and carbon removals. The stated objectives of the Climate Act, as stipulated in language contained within the law itself are to contribute to ensuring that:

  1. Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions decrease and the removals by sinks increase so that, at the latest by 2035, Finland has reached a situation where its greenhouse gas emissions are at most equal to the removals and that the removals continue to increase and emissions decrease after that as well;
  2. The combined anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere from the effort- sharing and emissions trading sectors decrease by at least 60 per cent by 2030 and by at least 80 per cent by 2040 compared to the 1990 levels;
  3. The combined anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere from the effort- sharing and emissions trading sectors decrease by at least 90 per cent but aiming at a reduction of 95 per cent by 2050 compared to the 1990 levels; and
  4. National measures are taken to adapt to climate change by promoting climate change resilience and the management of climate risks;

The targets were directly informed by an earlier study completed by the Finnish Climate Change Panel, an independent advisory council of top-level Finnish scholars convened by the Government. The panel 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.

Politics Note

Apart from the commitment itself, the Act is signifiant for asserting a justification for the law based on global “fairness” and global climate justice. As Emma Kari (Green Party), the Finnish Environment Minister at the time of the law’s enactment noted “High income countries have to take a progressive and active role when it comes to tackling climate change.” This rationale – and its political acceptance as evidenced by the legislation’s passage into law – establishes a powerful precedent that could have implications beyond Finland, including other EU member states, and advanced economies worldwide. A further elaboration of the justice principle was published by the Finland Climate Change Panel in March 2023. 

The Act survived a change in governance in the Finnish Parliament following parliamentary elections in April 2023, which resulted in a victory by the centre-right  National Coalition Party, which went on to form a coalition government with the Finns, Swedish People’s Party, and the Christian Democrats, In the summer of 2023 the coalition released its policy platform, and the commitment to negative emissions targets remained intact, in spite of some opposition raised by constituencies within the governing coalition. It’s survival now sets the stage for the formulation and enactment of specific policy proposals and programs that will be needed for Finland to successfully meet both its emissions reductions and negative emissions targets.

The origins of and ultimate support for the target, politically, were undoubtedly premised in large part on the carbon removal and storage potential that are linked to Finland’s extensive forest cover. It is reasonable to assume that removal and storage pathways related to forestry assets will form a central part of Finland’s future implementation strategy to achieve its targets. However, the Act itself does not prescribe forestry-linked measures specifically, leaving open the possibility of a more tech or solution agnostic program approach, inclusive of different forms of CDR. Finland, while a comparatively small country even within the EU context, does host an impressive and highly diversified CDR startup ecosystem, that include suppliers representing a range of durable CDR solutions such as BiCRS, mineralization and direct air capture. This level of private sector activity, while still nascent, could be leveraged for future advocacy in support of inclusive, standards-based approaches that catalyze a variety of CDR methods.

Replicability & Adaptation Potential

Negative emissions commitments, put forth as an integrated component of overall climate strategy and emissions targets, and underpinned by an explicit “fairness” rationale, represent an important model for other high emissions advanced economies to follow. While commitments of this kind alone do not automatically entail specific actions, the allocation of public funds or the establishment of compliance-based obligations for carbon removals, they do create a foundational and wide-reaching statutory platform upon which such actions can be justified, proposed and enacted in the future. As a background law, Finland’s negative emissions mandate can therefore serve as a forcing policy to drive the development specific enabling policies for carbon removals, necessitate a high level of ambition at the program level, and dictate an accelerated timeline for the former’s development and enactment.