We already have climate solutions – How can Finland meet the challenges set by the IPCC report?

News 2021-08-13 at 16:45
© Kai Widell

The report on the Physical Science Basis of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, published on Monday states that human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe. This will affect life on land, at sea and in the atmosphere. The progress of climate change creates significant additional risks to society and nature. To combat climate change, we need rapid and comprehensive and system-level actions that reduce emissions, enhance carbon sinks and help us adapt to changes.

“One of the key challenges in bringing about social change is making the transition fair and just for everyone. This requires governance across the society and coherent political decisions,” says Mikael Hildén, Director of the Finnish Environment Institute’s (SYKE) Climate Change Programme.

“We need everyone. In addition to decision-makers and administration, every individual, family, consumer, company, municipality and sector can take action to combat climate change. Finland should make use its strong research and innovation competence and our tight national and international networks . A functioning society and infrastructure provide the basis for implementing fast climate solutions,” says SYKE’s Research Director Eeva Primmer.

SYKE supports water risk management

“As climate change progresses, we will definitely see significant changes in water resources and the water cycle in Finland as well. Climate change affects the water quantity and quality as well as the freshwater ecosystems in many ways, and not all impacts can be predicted yet,” says Anna-Stiina Heiskanen, Director of SYKE’s Freshwater Centre.

The warming of water and the shorter period for ice cover will change water environment. These factors may increase bacterial and algal abundance and affect the oxygen conditions and mixing of water. Climate change has already shortened the period for ice cover, which may have a significant impact on some species. Warming already disturbs nature's schedules.

“Some species benefit from warming, but many cold-water dependent will decline or may even disappear. Invasive alien species may also spread to Finnish waters as warming progresses,” says SYKE Head of Unit Marko Järvinen.

Climate change will change the seasonal rhythm of flow rates and increase river flows, especially in winter.

“Winter floods are already occurring in Southern and Central Finland, and their frequency may increase in the future. Climate change is also likely to increase heavy rainfall, increasing the risk of stormwater flooding in cities and urban areas. On the other hand, spring floods caused by melting snow may decrease in some parts of Finland. We should also be prepared for droughts,” says SYKE Head of Unit Noora Veijalainen.

SYKE supports the monitoring and status assessment of water bodies for Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centres). SYKE also studies climate change risks and adaptation methods and the effects that climate change has on water bodies. We can prepare for flooding by regulating the water level of lakes, for example. Preparations for current and future flood risks are being made at SYKE and the Finnish Meteorological Institute's joint Flood Centre in cooperation with ELY Centres and other authorities. The Flood Centre continuously monitors the water situation in Finland.

Municipalities play a key role

Climate work is already done extensively in Finland. Rapidly replicating these actions is a good starting point. Municipalities play an important role climate work, as they make decisions on energy solutions, procurements, public services and land use. More than 70 municipalities in Finland are already committed to achieving at least an 80% reduction in emissions by 2030. This is earlier than the current target for all of Finland. SYKE coordinates the HINKU network for municipalities that pioneer climate change solutions.

“The pioneer municipalities have shown that ambitious climate work also makes economic sense. All municipalities should become HINKU municipalities”, says Jyri Seppälä, Director of SYKE’s Centre for Sustainable Consumption and Production and Director of the HINKU Network.

The HINKU network shares information on best practices for climate change mitigation, supports municipal climate work and creates demand for climate-friendly products and services. The network offers its members networking opportunities, support and emissions calculation services, for example.

New municipalities, regions and companies in the energy and climate industry are still welcome to join the HINKU network. Citizens are encouraged to push for their own municipality to join the network.

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Personal climate impacts and climate diets

Individual consumer choices are also important, because approximately 70% of Finland’s end-use greenhouse gas emission are generated by household consumption. This means housing, food, transport and the purchase of various goods and services.

With the SYKE’s Climate diet calculator, individual citizens can view their own carbon footprint and see where emissions are generated. The calculator takes into account housing and energy, eating habits, modes of transport, the consumption of goods and services and the sorting of waste. The calculator provides tips on how to reduce your carbon footprint with concrete actions based on the information you entered. The suggestions can be small or large. Car selection and home heating solutions are examples of large-scale changes. Small-scale suggestions include saving water, energy, emissions and money by taking shorter showers, because one third of the heating energy in homes is used to heat water.

Consumers are encouraged to ask about carbon footprint data and demand low-carbon services and products. This favours electricity producers that promise the most low-emission power and producers and sellers of products and services that take energy efficiency, carbon footprint and ecolabel of the equipment seriously. Restaurants that make delicious food from low-emission ingredients should be given special visibility.

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Towards a climate-smart use of natural resources with circular economy

Finns use up to ten times more raw materials for their consumption than the average global consumer. This is also reflected in high consumption-based greenhouse gas emissions, a significant part of which are generated outside our borders.

Some current regulations even encourage the intensive use of raw materials, which generates high levels of waste. We must develop the circular economy comprehensively. For example, there is still a lot of potential for more efficient use of materials and raw materials in the construction and industrial processing industries as well as in food chains.

Regulation can contribute to longer product lifecycles, through means such as quality requirements. The requirements may lead to longer warranty periods and better availability for repairs and updates. Economic incentives can encourage different industries to use recycled raw materials more wisely and more frequently.

Several companies have already transitioned towards a sustainable circular economy, and innovations in circular economy are rewarded with the annual Circular Economy Award.

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Further information:

  • Research Director Eeva Primmer, Finnish Environment Institute SYKE, tel. +358 295 251 521, firstname.lastname@syke.fi

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