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Finland legally commits to carbon negativity by 2040

Eliminating carbon dioxide will soon be enshrined in Finnish law: in a historic vote on Wednesday, the country’s parliament approved a new climate change law that would commit the country to carbon neutrality by 2035 and carbon negativity 2040.

Assuming it is signed by President Sauli Niinistö, the law would make Finland the first country in the world to make its carbon commitments legally binding.

Kati Kulovesi, a professor of international law at the University of Eastern Finland, called the new targets “remarkable”, especially the carbon negativity pledge. The targets are based on a scientific analysis of the country’s nationally determined contributions, which Kulovesi also praised.

“However, other details of the act could have been stronger,” Kulovesi told Protocol. “There is a significant gap between the current measures and those needed to achieve the goals, and there is now a legal obligation to act.”

The new law also updates absolute emission reduction targets, requiring a reduction of at least 60% by 2030 and 80% by 2040, compared to 1990 levels. to an 80% reduction by 2050, this change therefore propels the country’s progress by an entire decade.

Combining these reductions with the new negative carbon targets legally mandated in less than 20 years will force the country to rely on eliminating carbon dioxide in addition to simply reducing its overall emissions.

CDR comes in several forms: from land (reforestation, conservation) to very technical (direct aerial capture). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has made it clear that CDR, in one form or another, will be a “necessary component” if we are to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (or, ideally, lower).

However, most countries have so far only made commitments to carbon neutrality, trumpeted at international gatherings like the Conferences of the Parties on climate change. While some of these are legally binding – Finland cites the laws of Sweden, Denmark and the UK as examples – many are not.

There are other smaller countries that have already reduced their emissions below zero, such as Bhutan and Suriname. These members of the carbon negative club are largely forested and manage to absorb more carbon dioxide than they emit through a combination of land protection and aggressive measures to reduce their emissions.

Joining the club could prove difficult for Finland, however, given that the country still relies heavily on fossil fuels for its energy needs. And according to preliminary data from Statistics Finland, the country’s land use sector emitted more greenhouse gases than it absorbed for the first time in 2021, to the tune of 2.1 million. tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

But by holding itself legally responsible for its international commitments, the country will soon have no choice but to transform itself.