Finnish PM demands faster climate action at European Parliament

Finland’s Prime Minister Juha Sipilä in Brussels, Belgium November 25, 2018. The Finnish PM called for more ambitious climate policies in the European Parliament, Thursday. (Piroschka van de Wouw/Reuters/Pool)
Addressing a plenary session of the European Parliament on Thursday, Prime Minister Juha Sipilä called for more ambitious climate policies.

He was speaking in the run-up to the Finnish EU presidency, which begins this summer. However only a few dozen of the 751 MEPs were in the hall to listen to his speech, part of the Future of Europe series.

Sipilä reiterated a call made by eight Finnish political parties that the EU to be carbon neutral by 2050. The Finnish premier said that the Union’s joint target for greenhouse gas emissions cuts by 2030 should be raised from the current 40 percent to at least 55 percent, compared to 1990 levels.

“We have to do more and faster. We must reduce emissions, increase the carbon sinks and adopt new technologies,” Sipilä said.

Finland to re-jig Emissions Trading System

According to Sipilä, the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) is “the most cost-efficient way” to reduce emissions, but that Finland aims to revise the system so as to encourage quicker reductions. He also said that the ETS should be expanded to cover more sectors, including the heating and cooling of buildings.

The PM said that one way to slow climate change is to increase carbon sinks.

“It has surprised me how much more carbon dioxide could be bound in agricultural fields if we made some changes in farming practices. We have 100 ‘carbon farmers’ testing new practices in Finland,” he said, adding that “we also need to plant more forests”.

Brexit and trade walls

On other issues, Sipilä decried the rise of populism and its role in Brexit, saying: “We have seen what happens when people propose solutions for complex issues by oversimplification of matters. In the end, nobody takes responsibility. This was the case in the United Kingdom, and the result is there for all to see.”

He also took a veiled swipe at recent US policies.

“It is very harmful if the major players continue to build trade walls,” he said. “We must do everything to prevent or tear down such walls.”

Sipilä addressed the Parliament in his capacity as prime minister of the next country to hold the rotating presidency of the European Council. Finland takes over from Romania on 1 July.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canadian Chamber of Commerce backs carbon pricing, but not for the North, CBC News

Finland: Climate change, birth rate should be Finnish gov’s top priorities: report, Yle News

Norway: Norway to press Russia for action on Arctic smelter pollution, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Russia’s quest for Arctic resources unhindered by climate crisis, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: No easy solution to slash aircraft carbon footprint, Radio Sweden

United States: Climate change a threat to bases across the U.S., Defense Dept. says, Alaska Public Media

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