Country profile - Future developments (Finland)

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Country introduction - Foreseen main developments
Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 21 Mar 2015


The growth of energy and resource use is likely to continue which at least to some degree will be counterbalanced, for example, by the use of renewable energy and improvement in the energy and resource efficiency. In general, it is difficult to predict what will be the main developments affecting environmental pressures. Climate change will most likely have many types of social and environmental consequences. Likewise, it is difficult to estimate beforehand how they will affect the environmental pressures in the future. However, environmental policy and measures aim to mitigate, not to contribute to environmental pressures.


Climate change will be an essential factor influencing the environment. The anticipated changes affect the environment and the pressures on the environment[1]. In addition, the measures and activities to adapt to and mitigate climate change will have environmental and societal effects.


The pressures on biodiversity[2] will most likely increase due to the anticipated climate changes. A major shift in climatic and vegetation zones is expected, inducing a shift in the distribution of the characteristic species of those zones. This will be difficult for many of the species, and invasive species may gain more from climate change than the native species, making the adaptation to new conditions even more difficult. On average, the adaptation capabilities of the northern and arctic species habitats are more limited in comparison to the more southern ones.


In November 2008, the Finnish Government adopted a climate and energy strategy[3], with detailed insights into climate and energy policy measures up to 2020, and suggestions up to 2050. In October 2009, the Government adopted a more radical Foresight Report on Long-term Climate and Energy Policy which was published by the Prime Minister's Office in November 2009.


The strategy proposes substantial changes in the energy sector. The aim is to decrease the growth in the final energy consumption so that by 2020 it would be over 10 % less than in the baseline scenario. In 2050 the consumption is expected to be at least one third less than in 2020. The use of renewable energy will be increased so that its share will be at least 38 % by 2020. This accomplishment will require a substantial increase in the use of wood-based energy, waste fuels, heat pumps, biogas and wind energy.


The decrease in the energy consumption curbs also the emissions. The renewable energy will be mainly of domestic origin. That requires expanded and new processes for the collection, processing, storage and use of the fuels. The anticipated changes in the energy sector will affect and at least partially curb the pressures on the environment.


Transport continues to be a driving force behind the environmental pressures. The number of cars increased steadily in 1970–2009 from about 700 000 to 2 780 000 cars so that there was 519 cars per inhabitant. The increase is expected to slow considerably after 2010[4]. The growth of traffic performance has been slower than the increase in the number of cars. The average mileage of a passenger car is now approximately 17 000 km/year. The vehicle mileage is expected to grow in 2007–2040 by 34 % to about 46 000 million vehicle-kilometres. The increasing use of biofuels and electric vehicles will curb the greenhouse gas emissions.


Land use has also a great influence on the environment[5]. The land use planning is guided by The Revised National Land Use Guidelines of Finland, which should be taken into account on the regional and local level. The latest revision of National Guidelines focused on different ways to tackle the effects of the climate change and on the special features of the Helsinki region. Reducing the volume of traffic is one of the ways to mitigate climate change, and the means of transport has a significant role there. Thus the emphasis must be on public transport, walking and cycling. Energy savings, use of renewable energy sources and district heating, wind power plants, and waste combustion plants are now incorporated in the Guidelines in a more comprehensive way. Regarding the adaption to climate change, it is necessary to take into account areas prone to flooding and the increasing incidence of storms, heavy rainfall and flooding in built areas. The Helsinki region will be more able to cope with the population growth and it will be developed as a metropolis that relies on public transport, and rail in particular.


A recent study[6] examines different development alternatives of urban and regional form and their impact on greenhouse gas emissions until 2050. The possibilities to influence this development are evaluated as well. The way urban and regional communities are composed affects greenhouse gas emissions from construction, use of buildings and infrastructure, and transportation. The current amount of greenhouse gas emissions created by urban and regional communities is estimated to be approximately 34 million tons CO2 equivalent per annum.


The three possible future alternatives until 2050 in the study were "business as usual", "more dense and centralized" and "more sparse and decentralized" when compared to the "business as usual" scenario. The "business as usual" scenario includes the growth of population from 3.5 million to 4.2 million in the 34 biggest city regions by 2050. However, the amount of greenhouse gas emissions is expected to decrease due to the implementation of energy-efficiency improvements in construction and renovation of the building stock. The emissions are decreasing by 26 percent per inhabitant compared to the current level. The average amount of emissions in the ”dense and centralised” scenario is about 1.2 percent less and in the ”sparse and decentralised” scenario about 1.9 percent more than in the "business as usual" scenario.


The programme ‘ERA17 for an energy-smart built environment 2017’ (drawn up in 2010 by the Ministry of the Environment, the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, and the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation Tekes) seeks to provide answers to the challenges posed to the built environment by climate change mitigation. When energy consumption and use required for construction amounts to over 40% of final energy consumption and nearly 40% of greenhouse gas emissions, improving the built environment plays a key role in mitigating climate change and creating a competitive and sustainable society. If we include the impact of traffic, which is to a large extent defined by community structure, these figures are even higher. ERA17 provides a comprehensive action plan to improve the energy efficiency of the built environment, reduce emissions, and promote the use of renewable energy. There are now 31 proposals for actions and measures[7], and according to the first impact estimates they will reduce the energy consumption of the built environment by approximately 20–30 % and greenhouse gas emissions by 10–35 % in 2010–2050.

[1] Estimated changes in the climate in Finland, Finnish Meteorological Institute (in Finnish)

[2] Climate change and biodiversity, Finnish Environment Institute

[3] Pitkän aikavälin ilmasto- ja energiastrategia Ministry of Employment and the Economy 38/2008 (in Finnish) with an English summary Climate Change and Energy Strategy 2008 summary

[4] Finnish Road Statistics 2009, p 15–16, Finnish Transport Agency (until 1.1.2010 Finnish Road Administration)

[5] Perspectives for spatial structure and land use in Finland, Ministry of the Environment (Finnish Environment 31en/2006)

Land use planning, Ministry of the Environment

National land use guidelines, Ministry of the Environment

The Revised National Land Use Guidelines of Finland, Ministry of the Environment

[6] Pekka Lahti and Paavo Moilanen: Kaupunkiseutujen yhdyskuntarakenne ja kasvihuonekaasupäästöt [Urban land use patterns and greenhouse gas emission in Finland 2005–2050] Kehitysvertailuja 2005–2050. Suomen ympäristö 12/2010. Ympäristöministeriö. (In Finnish, abstract in English.)

[7] Kirsi Martinkauppi (ed.): ERA 17 Energiaviisaan rakennetun ympäristön aika 2017. Ministry of the Environment, Sitra and Tekes (in Finnish, Summary in English)


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