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Development under way to provide all Finnish municipalities with a uniform accounting method for greenhouse gas emissions

2020-02-10 Johannes Lounasheimo

Over the years, various parties in Finland have conducted valuable calculations of municipal greenhouse gas emissions. However, the results obtained from the different calculations are not comparable, because the methods used by the parties differ from one another. The emissions of different municipalities can be monitored and compared only if they are based on uniform calculation methods. This is why the Finnish Environment Institute has decided to develop a harmonised approach for all Finnish municipalities.

In this second part of my blog series dealing with emissions accounting, I will focus on solutions currently under development. What lies behind the results? What data and assumptions are the emissions results based on? In my previous blog article, I discussed alternative accounting methods at a more general level.

Usage-based accounting to become the standard in Finland

In the course of the Finnish Environment Institute’s development project, continuing until spring 2020, we will create the foundation for uniform municipal greenhouse gas accounting and will calculate the emissions of all Finnish municipalities for the period 2005–2017. In the future, the results will be updated annually. This work has received funding from the Ministry of the Environment (ALas project) and the Life IP Canemure project. The accounting method will be further developed and updated in the Finnish Environment Institute’s future projects.

In the usage-based method that is now under development, some of the elements will be calculated regionally and others based on consumption. We will use as much local data as possible as source material. Modelling and various methods for allocating the country’s overall emissions to municipalities will also be employed in emissions accounting.

The key objective of our work is to make our models, codes and other data as broadly available as possible to other players. The results, materials and methods of our calculations will be available online, at Carbonneutralfinland.fi, once our work is complete.

Fairer calculation method for road traffic

Finland is in a good situation regarding road-traffic emissions accounting. Information about municipal emissions is generated by the Lipasto calculation system developed and maintained by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. The calculation encompasses all road traffic within municipal boundaries. However, this regional model has been found to be problematic especially in municipalities intersected by a major artery or arteries. In such cases, municipal emissions may largely result from road traffic, but the possibilities to influence the emissions of transit traffic are limited.

In the Finnish Environment Institute’s model, road traffic emissions are calculated in a new way that takes the measures of municipalities and their residents better into account. In the future, passenger car and motorcycle calculations will be based on the vehicles registered in the municipality and their average annual driving distances. The approach is based on consumption, and emissions are unaffected by municipal borders.

Concerning other road transport, the regional calculation method will be adjusted to exclude transit traffic. In addition, the vehicle fleet of individual municipalities will be taken into account in the calculations. This means that the procurement of, for example electric buses, will have an impact on the results.

More accurate estimates for several sources of emissions

Residential heating generates a significant share of the greenhouse gas emissions of Finnish municipalities. This area therefore merits special attention. When calculating the emissions from electric heating, oil heating and wood-fired heating, we use information about the annual heating needs and housing stock in individual municipalities. The information in building registers is not always accurate, but the experts from Statistics Finland have revised the materials for our calculations.

The use of electric heating is at its highest in the winter months, when the emissions from power production exceed the annual average. Because of this, we will calculate the emissions from power consumption on a monthly basis from now on. The goal of this reform is to ensure that the results better match reality.

Calculations of machinery emissions were previously based on the sales data for light fuel oil. The Finnish Environment Institute’s model applies the FRES air pollutant approach, in which Finnish machinery (VTT/TYKO) is allocated to different municipalities based on land use, road and population data. Among other things, this means that the machinery emissions in Helsinki will quadruple, as construction and other equipment can be taken into account more accurately.

Our model will now also account for fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-gases), which are emitted especially by refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment. F-gases account for slightly over two per cent of Finland’s emissions.

A new perspective for analysing emissions trends

The usage-based calculation adopted by the Finnish Environment Institute is primarily intended to serve municipalities in the Hinku network, which are committed to reducing their emissions by 80 per cent by 2030. This target applies to the usage-based emissions of Hinku municipalities, excluding industrial fuel use that comes under the scope of emissions trading. All industrial electricity consumption as well as waste emissions are also excluded from the Hinku target. The new calculation model described in this article will be used for road traffic, and wind power production will earn carbon credits for municipalities.

In general, municipal greenhouse gas emissions will be calculated according to these “Hinku” rules. However, an other set of calculations, excluding the Hinku rules, will also be made to ensure international comparability. This means that municipalities can analyse the trend in their emissions either by taking all emissions into account or excluding, for example the credit granted for wind power. The regional emissions data from the Lipasto system will also be reported for road traffic.

We will continue to have several ways of tracking emissions, but now they will be supported by a single transparent calculation model, which will produce comparable emissions data for all Finnish municipalities. A centralised source-data collection and emissions calculation is cost-effective, and the time series can be easily updated should changes be made to international calculation rules.

Johannes Lounasheimo, Senior Specialist, Finnish Environment Institute SYKE

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