Finnish Government Faces First-Ever Lawsuit Over Climate Inaction Amid Backfiring Sanctions
© PAVEL MIKHEYEVPylons of high-tension electricity power lines are seen next to the GRES-1 coal-fired thermal power plant outside Ekibastuz
© PAVEL MIKHEYEV
The EU’s need to power its industry and keep its houses warm amid a self-inflicted energy crisis may wipe out the bloc’s far-reaching climate ambitions that include carbon neutrality and a comprehensive ban on fossil fuels. In Finland alone, the use of coal rose 8 percent in the first nine months of this year instead of a gradual phaseout.
Activists have accused the Finnish government of failure to act on its ambitious carbon neutrality targets, as Europe’s green commitment seems to falter amid an energy crunch.
In Finland's first-ever climate trial, environmental organizations have filed a lawsuit against the government over insufficient measures to act against climate change.
Greenpeace and the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation stressed that the government's own target of carbon neutrality by 2035 is in peril, unless more action is taken.
The environmental groups further said the government had ignored its own laws by failing to protect the Nordic nation's carbon sinks — that is natural systems, such as forests, that absorb carbon from the atmosphere and store it via vegetation and soil. According to the lawsuit, carbon sinks in Finland have “collapsed” due to an increase in logging and to slower tree growth. In 2021, more trees were felled than at any other time in Finland's history, making the country’s land-use sector a net emitter of greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the Finnish Climate Change Act, the government is legally obliged to work towards carbon neutrality by 2035, while evaluating progress in annual climate reports. The environmental organizations are thus seeking a ruling from the court on whether the government has neglected its obligations to plan additional climate actions to stay on track for reaching the climate goals.
The Ministry of the Environment said that the initial statistics cannot be compared to the previous years' numbers, citing a difference in calculation methods. At the same time, Agriculture and Forestry Minister Antti Kurvinen said earlier that he takes the collapsing carbon sink numbers seriously.
However, Finland has in recent years struggled to balance its wide-reaching climate ambitions with the needs of its forestry industry, which remains an important part of its economy. In 2020, Finnish forestry product exports totaled 10.4 billion euros ($10.8 billion), amounting to 18 percent of the country's total exports.
23 November 2022, 05:28 GMT
Europe’s ill-conceived and backfiring sanctions against Russian energy have further jeopardized the so-called “Green Switch”, as countries across the continent are dusting off coal-fired power plants to keep the lights on in absence of Russian energy. In Finland alone, coal-powered electricity and heat generation rose 8 percent in the first nine months of this year — in stark contrast to the nation’s plans to phase out coal and completely ban it by 2029. This year alone, Finland used some 1,277 metric tons of hard coal to generate electricity and heat, exacerbating its greenhouse gas emissions.
At the same time, the Finland’s important chemical and forestry sectors have warned of possible factory shutdowns as natural gas prices skyrocket and the country is bracing for power cuts this winter. Across the EU, the need to keep its industry powered and its houses warm in a self-made crisis may interfere with the bloc’s far-reaching climate ambitions that include carbon neutrality and a flat ban on fossil fuels.
25 November 2022, 05:12 GMT
Of late, numerous organizations and individuals around the world have turned to the courts to challenge perceived government inaction on the issue of climate change. Last week, over 600 activists in neighboring Sweden, led by Greta Thunberg, filed a lawsuit accusing the state of climate inaction, also a first in the country.