Country profile - Drivers and impacts (Finland)

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Country introduction - Main drivers of environmental pressures
Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 21 Mar 2015


Amongst the main drivers are energy production and use. Practically all of the anthropogenic emissions to air are energy-related. The excess emissions of the greenhouse gases are commonly seen as the cause of climate change that is a major environmental challenge. The impacts of the climate change are numerous and overarching. The Finnish National Adaptation Strategy[1] describes the impacts of climate change in the following sectors: agriculture and food production, forestry, fisheries, reindeer husbandry, game management, water resources, biodiversity, industry, energy, traffic, land use and communities, building, health, tourism and recreation, and insurance. The strategy describes the present sensitivity to climate change, and outlines actions and measures to improve the capacity to adapt to future climate change. The strategy aims at reducing the negative consequences and taking advantage of the opportunities associated with climate change. On the global scale, some of the predicted impacts of climate change, especially if the global temperature rises more than two degrees, would be very dramatic.


Transport contributes to several environmental pressures. It causes greenhouse gas emissions and other emissions to air that deteriorate the local air quality. Excess noise caused by the traffic affects many people. The transport infrastructure results in fragmentation of natural areas and in soil sealing. The materials for production of cars, trains and other vehicles as well as the fuel used in the vehicles consume natural resources.


Energy use is also related to the industrial production. The energy intensity has been improving, especially in forest industry, but is still relatively high compared to other European countries. Other factors affecting the energy use are the long distances and urban sprawl, which increase the transport demand, and the need of heating during the wintertime.


The energy sector will be affected by the measures to mitigate climate change. The use of renewable energy will be increased. Often the renewable energy sources are domestic and this will probably induce a growth in the area used for biofuels and in the transport demand. Furthermore, an increased use of wind power demands careful land-use planning.


Agriculture and forests contribute to the climate change through emissions of greenhouse gases but soil and vegetation are also significant stocks of carbon. The number of farms has nearly halved since 1990 and was 66 938 in 2007[2]. At the same time, the average size of arable land of farms has increased. Combined with the intensification of agricultural practices, the changes in farm structure may compromise the biodiversity. The share of organic farming has recently slightly decreased and is now about 6 % of arable area. Agriculture is one of the sources of nutrients causing eutrophication of the waters.


Depending on the definition, forest land covers 66–73 % and the total forestry area about 78 % of Finland's land area. Forests provide a number of vital ecosystem services including their functioning as carbon sinks. According to the latest National Forest Inventory (NFI) the net sequestration capacity of Finnish forests has nearly doubled during the last 20 years and in 2008 it was 42 million tonnes CO2. According to a recent report[3] by FAO, in Finland the carbon stock in living forest biomass is 832 million tonnes in 2010, which is one of the highest carbon stocks amongst European countries.


Both agriculture and forestry play a role in the land use changes. According to the Corine Land Cover surveys, most of the changes in land use between 2000 and 2006 in Finland are due to forest management, i.e. forest cuttings and re-growth make 91 % of the area of all changes that in turn correspond to about 2.1 % of Finland's land area. Approximately 3 500 km2 of forest has changed into transitional woodland/shrubs and conversely nearly 3 000 km2 new forest has emerged.


Only 1 % of the detected changes are due to the increase in built-up land while establishment of new agricultural areas makes almost 7 % of the changes. The major part of the new agricultural areas is converted from old peat production areas.


Climate change and the measures and activities to adapt to and mitigate climate change will have significant environmental and societal effects (see section Foreseen main developments below)[4].


Consumer behaviour and consumption patterns affect environmental pressures in many ways. Some of the driving forces related to the consumption are the general economic situation and the economic circumstances of citizens, households, and enterprises. In 2008, the average disposable income of a household in Finland was EUR 37 657, about a third higher than in 1990[5]. In addition to economic factors, societal and cultural changes affect households. From 1966 to 2001 the number of households in Finland increased from 1 385 000 to 2 382 000, and this increase has continued steadily[6]. At the same time, the average number of persons per household has decreased from 3.34 to 2.15. The age structure of the population[7] affects the household structure and number as well as the services the households will use. The old-age dependency ratio is expected to be the highest in EU around 2020–2030 and after around 2035 it will be below the EU average[8].

[1] Finland's National Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Publication 1a/2005

[2] Yearbook of Farm Statistics Ch. 2, Matilda Agricultural Statistics by the Information Centre of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in Finland

[4] See also Jonna Berghäll and Minna Pesu: Climate Change and the Cultural Environment Recognized Impacts and Challenges in Finland. The Finnish Environment 44en 2008

[5] Income distribution statistics, Statistics Finland.

[6] Number and size of households, Statistics Finland (31.12.2009) (in Finnish).


The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.

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