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The most impactful climate measures in action

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2020-09-11 Karoliina Auvinen

Many cities, regions and businesses are currently updating their climate action plans. People often ask: “What are the most important and significant measures for cutting back greenhouse gas emissions?” We responded from the perspective of production-based emissions by preparing a policy brief on the most significant emission reduction measures for mitigating climate change (in Finnish).

Some of the most critically important measures for reducing the emissions created by fossil fuels include resource efficiency, the considerable increase of low-emission energy, and clean electrification of heating, transport and industrial processes. In the land use sector, the important measures for reducing emissions include controlling emissions in peat fields and forests and preventing deforestation.

From the perspective of consumption-based emissions, it is important to favour foodstuffs, goods and services with the smallest possible carbon footprint.

Emission sources and sinks in Finland (2018)

The carbon neutrality goal will be reached once the emissions are equal to the carbon sinks binding them. According to the Finnish greenhouse gas inventory, the emissions of Finland amounted to 75 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2Eq.). Most (56%) of the Finnish emissions were created when burning fossil fuels for energy used in traffic and heating, among other things.

Tips for cutting back on emissions

  • Replace fossil fuels and peat in energy production with wind, solar and environmental power, hydropower and nuclear energy. In heating, the key focus is on industrial and real estate heat pumps that draw their energy from low-emission electricity, waste heat from society, industry and real estate as well as geothermal heat, water and air.
  • Replace vehicles using fossil diesel and petrol with electric or biogas vehicles. Increase their charging and refuelling infrastructure.
  • In cities, improve the service level of public transportation as well as the infrastructure for walking and cycling. Reduce the appeal of car use by setting parking and rush-hour fees.
  • Implement extensive energy renovations in existing buildings by installing heat pump and waste heat recovery solutions and improving insulation by, for example, increasing roof insulation and replacing old windows and doors. Use an intelligent heat control system to avoid unnecessary heating of indoor spaces.
  • Ensure that new buildings fulfil the requirements of Energy Class A, are primarily made of wood and are designed to use space as efficiently as possible. Select geothermal heat, for example.
  • In industrial and corporate activities, use energy and materials more efficiently, choose low-emission energy sources and opt for machinery and vehicles that run on electricity or biogas. Replace business operations based on fossil fuels with new, clean production processes or business concepts.
  • On farms, optimise fertilisation, choose feed that reduces methane emissions and replace fossil fuels with cleaner sources of energy, such as biogas produced out of manure. Give up cultivating peat fields and do not open up peat forests for farmland. Opt for grassland farming in cultivated peat fields and maintain a constant cover of vegetation, reduce tillage and, if possible, elevate the surface of groundwater to reduce the disintegration of the peat.
  • Favour a constant cover of vegetation in nutrient-rich peat forests as this reduces the emissions of the soil compared to the final felling model.
  • Reduce deforestation by planning and zoning populated areas so that existing forests are not cleared to make room for roads or construction zones.

A sure way to reduce emissions is to focus on replacing fossil fuels and peat with clean sources of energy, improving energy and material efficiency, ensuring sustainable procurements and maintaining the carbon stores in the soil.

Senior Specialist Karoliina Auvinen, Finnish Environment Institute

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