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Photo: Minna Hemmilä / Sitra

Published September 20, 2019

100 climate actions for society

Systematic action is required for the rapid reduction of emissions. We have compiled a list of 100 climate actions as a guide for policymakers.
Writer
Author's profile page: Oras Tynkkynen
Senior Advisor, Carbon-neutral circular economy, Sitra
Oras Tynkkynen helps Sitra to understand how Finland can transform into a carbon-neutral circular economy. He works particularly on climate solutions and policies to promote them.

There is a pressing need to find solutions to the climate crisis, and Finland must also reduce its emissions much faster than planned. Fortunately, this can be done.

However, the transition will not happen automatically. The rapid reduction of carbon emissions in various industries and at different levels requires systematic action.

Every one of us has the responsibility and opportunity to reduce emissions. In summer 2017, Sitra published a list of 100 smart ways to live sustainably as a means of supporting people to make small choices that can reduce the environmental impacts of daily life. You can make a plan based on these smart ways to reduce your personal carbon footprint with the Commitment 2050 tool.

However, most of the responsibility is borne by those who have the most power to affect emission levels. Therefore, we need major climate action from society. To assist the policymakers, we have compiled a list of 100 potential ways to abate emissions. The list is based on the views of our own experts and the reports we have prepared.

How to read the list

The list includes a wide range of potential climate actions divided into seven categories. In this context, climate action taken by society refers to national policies and measures that can be used to accelerate the reduction or capture of emissions.

Different actions have different strengths and weaknesses. Some of the measures listed would lead to savings for the state, while others would increase expenditure. Some of the actions would improve the position of low-income earners, others might weaken it – if no compensatory solutions were applied in the form of, for instance, income transfers or taxation.

Many measures affect the same sources of emissions, and the actions partly overlap. Even though it is advisable to combine different actions into a mutually complementary package, not all of them are intended to be implemented at the same time. One good ploy is often better than a handful of mediocre ones.

The actions can also be implemented in different ways. For example, the level of taxation can be low, high or somewhere in between.

The purpose of the list is to demonstrate the wide spectrum of potential climate actions Finnish policymakers could implement – if they so wish.

In other words, it is not a proposal by Sitra for action to be taken.

Below, you will find a list of 100 climate actions for society divided into seven categories. Please, get acquainted with them and drop a hint to policymakers on the climate actions you consider best!

The foundations of climate action

Ambitious goals, clear plans and a sufficient price on emissions provide a robust foundation for climate action.

1. Stricter emissions targets

The national targets for reducing emissions by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality could be updated to meet the goals set by the Paris Agreement.

2. A stronger Climate Change Act

The Climate Change Act, defining the framework of climate action, could be strengthened, aligned with the model of the United Kingdom, for example.

3. Include the rights of future generations in the Finnish Constitution

Including the rights of future generations in the Finnish Constitution could also enhance the responsibility of policymakers to address the climate crisis.

4. Make climate action one of the priorities for the EU Presidency

Finland could take full advantage of its EU Presidency in 2019 to strengthen climate action within the EU through, for example, the EU Long-Term Climate Strategy.

5. Lobby for stricter EU targets

Finland could lobby for stricter emission commitments by the EU for 2030 and 2050 to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

6. Enhance emissions trading

Finland could strive to enhance the EU Emissions Trading System as an efficient way of guiding countries to reduce emissions by, for example, removing emission allowances from the market.

7. Set a minimum price for emission allowances

A minimum price for emissions trading that is set nationally in Finland or jointly between the Nordic countries would speed up the transition to low-carbon solutions.

8. Buy emission allowances

Finland could buy emission allowances for itself within the EU Emissions Trading System and invalidate them if the Market Stability Reserve begins to release emission allowances from the reserve.

9. Consider the emission factor for biomass

Taking account of the life-cycle emissions of biomass would motivate operators to choose low-emission alternatives in energy production.

10. Industry-specific road maps

With the help of road maps outlining paths towards carbon neutrality, operators could target their investments and identify opportunities for change within their own sector.

11. Use climate rating in the state budget

The climate impacts of the appropriations and taxes included in the state budget could be assessed and rated to support policymakers in their choices.

12. Sustainable well-being indicators

Alongside gross national product or instead of it, we could use indicators that also take account of environmental and social viewpoints.

Legislation and standards

Laws, permits and obligations define the framework for climate action and ensure the achievement of desired goals.

13. Bring the coal ban forward

Bringing forward the 2029 deadline set for the ban on coal would accelerate the transition from coal to low-carbon energy.

14. Ban on using peat for energy

Banning or restricting the use of peat for energy would significantly reduce emissions from energy production.

15. Deadline for fossil energy

A general deadline for the use of all fossil energy or separate deadlines for different fuels could be set in the same manner as for coal.

16. Emissions cap for power plants

A maximum limit for the carbon emissions produced by power plants would encourage energy companies to replace high-emission fuels with low-carbon fuels.

17. Streamline the licensing of small nuclear reactors

Speeding up and simplifying the licensing of small modular nuclear reactors might make their introduction easier.

18. Include carbon emissions in environmental permits

The environmental permits used to regulate power plants and industrial installations could also be used to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

19. Make adoption of solar power easier for housing companies

Making it possible to share solar power between co-owners would make solar panels a more attractive investment for housing companies.

20. Ban combustion engine cars

Setting a deadline for the sale of new cars powered only by fossil fuels would accelerate the transition to zero-carbon traffic.

21. One public transport ticket for all

By requiring that providers of public transport services join a universal ticket system, passengers could use the same ticket for any journey anywhere in Finland.

22. Obligation to use biofuel for ships and aircraft

The obligation to blend sustainable biofuels with transport fuels could be expanded to include not only road transport but water and air transport as well.

23. Emission surcharge in flight ticket prices

Flight ticket providers could be obliged to offer emission compensation to passengers or to include it in the ticket prices.

24. Include emissions data in flight ads

Airlines and travel companies could be obliged to report the emission rates in their travel advertisements.

25. Stricter energy efficiency requirements for renovation

Energy efficiency requirements could be tightened for the renovation of existing buildings.

26. Limit the carbon footprint of new buildings

A maximum limit for the carbon footprint of new buildings would help to reduce emissions from construction and building materials.

27. An obligation to increase urban density

Municipal authorities responsible for land-use planning could be required to promote low-carbon urban structures.

28. Promote low-carbon procurement

The Act on Public Procurement could be strengthened by setting a binding obligation to favour solutions with low life-cycle emissions.

29. Climate plans for local authorities

Municipalities could be required to draw up climate plans detailing sufficient climate targets and measures, either on their own or jointly.

30. Include a vegetarian alternative in publicly funded meals

Providers of publicly funded meals could be required to offer low-emission vegetarian alternatives.

31. A ban on throwing away food

Companies could be required to redistribute edible leftover food instead of throwing it away.

32. Climate obligations for investments

Pension funds could be required to report on the carbon footprint of their investments and to divest from fossil fuels.

33. Product emission labelling

Producers could be obliged to include estimates of life-cycle emissions for their products in the product labelling.

34. Warning labels on high-carbon products

Producers could be obliged to display warnings on products with the largest carbon footprints.

35. Ban on clearing peatlands

A ban could be imposed on clearing new fields of peat to reduce emissions released from soil.

36. A ban on clear-felling on state-owned lands

A transition to continuous cover forestry on state-owned lands would help grow the carbon sinks and storage of Finnish forests.

37. Carbon sink target for Metsähallitus

An increase in the amount of carbon sinks on state-owned lands could be set as one the performance target for Metsähallitus, which is the state-owned enterprise responsible for the management of one third of Finland’s surface area.

Financial incentives

Financial support helps people and companies to make sustainable investments and choices.

38. Increase tax credits for household expenses

The tax credit for household expenses could be increased for energy improvements and the installation of renewable energy systems.

39. Increase energy-based grants

Increasing the appropriations to be granted for energy improvements made by housing companies would speed up the improvement of the energy efficiency of housing.

40. Expand renewable energy auctions

The competitive auctioning of the renewable energy support scheme could be extended and expanded.

41. Increase investment aidfor renewables

The investment aid for renewable energy and new energy technologies could be increased.

42. Net metering for the small-scale production of renewables

Net metering, or the right to receive full compensation for surplus electricity sold to a network, would make small-scale production of renewable energy more attractive to homes and farms.

43. Mandatory auctioning of wind power projects to local people

The same kind of mandatory auctioning of wind power projects as those afforded to local residents in Denmark would increase the acceptability of wind power and reduce local opposition.

44. Energy efficiency trading for companies

The trading in white certificates that signify energy efficiency improvements could promote the enhancement of energy efficiency within trade and industry.

45. Expand the range of the scrapping bonus

Continuing and expanding the range of the scrapping bonus paid for high-emission vehicles would promote the transition to a vehicle stock with lower emissions.

46. Support for building a charging network

Financial support would speed up the construction of a comprehensive charging network for electric cars.

47. Allowance for buying an electric bicycle

An allowance would lower the threshold for acquiring an electric bicycle.

48. Increase financing for rail projects

New rail projects and the maintenance of the existing railways could be promoted by increased funding.

49. Increase financing for public transport

Increased procurement of public transport services would improve the connections and provision of services.

50. Funding for projects promoting walking and cycling

Funding for municipal projects that promote walking and cycling could be increased.

  1. Set airport charges according to emissions

The airport taxes, fees and charges imposed on airlines could be determined according to their emissions.

52. Set charges on shipping according to emissions

The shipping route fees and harbour charges imposed on ships could be determined according to emissions.

53. Direct subsidies for forestry and agriculture according to climate criteria
The existing subsidies for forestry and agriculture could be targeted at carbon reduction and capture solutions.

 

54. Climate criteria for funding provided by the Development Fund for Agriculture and Forestry

Climate criteria could be applied to funding granted by the Development Fund for Agriculture and Forestry (Makera).

55. Increase afforestation subsidies

Increased subsidies could accelerate the afforestation of fields and wasteland.

56. Compensation for turning fields into carbon sinks

Landowners could be paid compensation for ecosystem services that increase the change of use of fields to carbon sinks.

57. Carbon sink incentives for forest owners

Forest owners could be paid compensation for increasing the change of use of forests to carbon sinks.

58. Climate grants for local authorities

Competitive grants allocated to municipal climate projects would ensure the greatest benefits with minimal costs.

59. Climate perspective for central government transfers

The setting of central government transfers based on climate measures would encourage climate action at a local level.

60. Green bonds

The state could issue green bonds to mobilise funding for climate projects.

61. Green investment bank

A green investment bank established by the state could finance climate investments.

Cutting harmful subsidies

Cutting or redirecting subsidies that are harmful to the climate would reduce incentives to cause emissions – and save taxpayers’ money.

62. Redirect emissions trading compensation

Tax revenue from the compensation for indirect costs of the emissions trading scheme could be channelled towards industrial reform.

63. Redirect energy tax refunds

Tax refunds given to energy-intensive companies could be redirected towards energy efficiency investments.

64. Remove tax aid for peat

Instead of applying a reduced tax rate to the use of peat for energy, aid could be provided for the refurbishment of power plants.

65. Reconsider a reduced duty on electricity

The application of a lower tax rate for the use of electricity by industry and greenhouses could be linked to energy efficiency obligations imposed on companies.

66. Remove energy tax aid for farms

The energy tax aid for agriculture and horticulture could be targeted at renewable energy instead of imported fossil fuels.

67. Reconsider tax aid for machinery

Instead of applying a lower tax rate to light fuel oil used in machinery, the reduced rate could be used for supporting the electrification of machinery.

68. Remove the reduced tax rate for diesel fuel

The use of diesel fuel could be taxed in the same manner as other fuels.

69. Remove the overcompensating kilometre allowance

The kilometre allowance could be paid according to actual driving costs, so that it would not reward people for driving their own cars.

70. Fairer deductions for commuting expenses

The deduction of commuting expenses could treat different modes of transport more equitably.

71. Reconsider parking benefits

Instead of providing parking benefits at a workplace, reduced tax rates could be used to support sustainable commuting.

72. Remove tax aid for water traffic

Removing tax aid for fuel used by domestic water traffic might encourage operators to use fuel more efficiently.

73. Renew tax aid for flying

Higher taxes could be levied on the most polluting mode of transport, and the tax exemptions for fuels used for domestic flights could be removed.

74. Reduce the transport subsidy

The transport subsidy for remote areas could be targeted at low-emission transport.

75. Remove the school milk subsidy

The school milk subsidy could be reallocated to increase the use of foods with a smaller climate footprint in schools.

76. Remove budget support for the mining industry

The money saved from budget support for the mining industry could be used for funding the transition to the circular economy.

Taxation

Taxation can be used for encouraging companies and individuals to choose solutions that help to conserve the climate instead of favouring high-carbon solutions.

77. Ecological tax reform

Ecological tax reform would mean imposing higher taxes on emissions and the consumption of natural resources, and lower taxes on work and entrepreneurial activities.

78. Tie ecological taxes to the index rate

Tying environmental and energy taxes to the index rate would guarantee that they do not automatically lose their effect with inflation.

79. Increase the impact of emissions on fuel taxes

Increasing the emission component of excise duties on fuels would encourage people to move to less-polluting fuels.

80. Set the tax rates on motor vehicles according to emissions

Increasing the staggering of car and vehicle taxes according to emission rates would encourage people to choose low-carbon vehicles.

81. No tax onto zero-emission cars

Zero-emission cars could be exempted from car and vehicle taxes for a fixed period.

82. Reduce the taxable value of company-owned electric cars

Applying a reduced taxable value to company-owned electric cars would encourage employers to favour electric cars.

83. Set road tolls according to emissions

Road tolls in general can be used for reducing emissions from car traffic but setting road tolls according to a vehicle’s emission rate would increase the incentive to choose low-carbon vehicles.

84. Reduce taxes on the railways

Removing the railway infrastructure tax and charge would improve the competitiveness of rail travel.

85. Emission-based aviation tax

An airline ticket tax would help to curb the growth in air traffic and, if staggered according to emission rate, make people choose flights with lower emissions.

86. Market price-based duty on electricity

Duty determined on the basis of the prevailing market price of electricity would promote the elasticity of demand, or the timing of consumption to more opportune times, to improve the economy and benefit the climate.

87. Waste heat tax

A tax on the waste heat produced by power and industrial plants would help to reduce energy loss and promote the use of the heat, for example, for heating of housing.

88. Stagger real estate tax according to energy efficiency

The real estate tax could be staggered according to the energy efficiency of the building.

89. Emission tax on food

An emission tax on food could be imposed on foodstuffs with the largest climate impact.

90. Emission-based VAT on food

A higher tax rate could be imposed on high-emission animal-based products, whereas the tax rate on other foodstuffs would remain lower.

91. Different VAT rates for goods and services

A higher VAT rate on goods and a lower one on services would encourage people to choose services that consume fewer natural resources and that provide more labour.

Education, research and development

Education and research strengthen the competences needed when building a carbon-neutral society and developing new solutions.

92. Strengthen climate-related competence

Further highlighting the role of climate matters in the curricula at all levels of education would help future specialists to better respond to the climate crisis.

93. Increase the R&D funding for climate solutions

Increasing the funding for R&D and targeting it at climate solutions would help to bring new solutions to the market and create new business.

94. A financing programme for carbon removal

A financing programme for trial projects in the sequestration of emissions, such as bioenergy combined with carbon capture, would prepare society for the transition to net negative emissions.

95. Industrial climate innovation support

Support radical industrial climate innovations would help to reduce emissions in particularly difficult sectors, such as metal industry.

96. Support for a just transition

Support for retraining and job-seeking in sectors that suffer in the transition would ease the move to a carbon-neutral society and reduce opposition.

International co-operation

By supporting international climate co-operation Finland can also help to reduce emissions outside its own borders.

97. Increase international climate funding

Funding for reducing emissions and for adapting to climate impacts in poor countries could be increased by, for example, channelling some of the emissions trading revenue for the purpose.

98. Target development funding according to climate criteria

Development co-operation appropriations could be targeted more clearly at climate projects that advance development goals at the same time.

99. Support for the international climate system

Increasing funding for the UN Climate Change Secretariat and for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) would strengthen the structures of international climate action.

100. Support international climate initiatives

By means of international climate initiatives it is possible to strengthen collaborative climate action across borders in different sectors and regions.

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