This year’s CLC Autumn Meeting took place on the eve of Zero Emissions Day on 20 September at the Neste headquarters in Helsinki. Around 70 delegates from CLC’s member organisations gathered to launch the Zero Emissions Day programme and to mark CLC’s fifth anniversary.

The meeting began with formal opening remarks delivered by Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). She congratulated CLC on the organisation’s significant international achievements to date and expressed her hope that the highly successful partnership between the organisations will continue in future. Espinosa’s message was clear: we must act now, we must act together and we must act quickly if we are to halt climate change on time. 

Calling for more ambitious climate policies in Europe  

State Secretary Terhi Lehtonen from Finland’s Ministry of the Environment spoke to introduce the new Finnish government’s policies on climate. The government has placed climate action and implementing the 1.5-degree limit set out in the Paris Agreement at the core of its programme and is committed to taking all necessary measures to accelerate emissions reductions and strengthen carbon sinks in the short and long term to ensure Finland is climate neutral by 2035 and carbon negative soon thereafter. Ultimately, the aim is to make Finland the world’s first fossil-free welfare society. The policies include the phasing out of coal by 2029 and oil-powered heating by 2030, reducing the use of peat for energy and bringing both energy and transport taxation in line with the carbon neutrality target. In addition to domestic climate action, the government will push for more ambition at EU level in terms of targets and policies.

Jouni Keronen presented CLC’s recently launched statement, which calls for more ambitious EU-wide emissions targets and sets out plans for a predictable and market-driven systemic solution for achieving jointly agreed climate goals. CLC’s key message is that the EU should aim for zero emissions by 2050 at the latest and agree a binding carbon budget to cover all remaining emissions generated within the EU in the lead up to 2050. All emissions reductions and carbon sinks must be designed to support the target for 2050. In addition, the interim targets for 2030 and 2040 must be revised and aligned with the net-zero target.

Finland ideally placed to grow carbon handprint

New innovations and investment in clean technology are vital if international climate targets are to be achieved. Salla Ahonen, Vice President for Sustainability at Neste set out the company’s journey from oil refining specialist to the world’s largest producer of renewable diesel. The Neste MY renewable diesel is an excellent example of how new products developed by Finnish companies can contribute to emissions reductions beyond the country’s own borders. In 2018, Neste MY had a positive handprint of approximately 7.9 million tonnes. This is a significant achievement, equivalent to 14% of Finland’s territorial greenhouse gas emissions. Neste has pledged to help its customers to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 20 million tonnes by 2030.

In his speech, non-fiction and SF author Risto Isomäki noted that there a more than ten and possibly even dozens of Finnish innovations that have the potential to play a significant role in the international fight against global warming. They are featured in his latest book, titled Miten Suomi pysäyttää ilmastonmuutoksen (How Finland can stop climate change). Many of these technologies provide answers to the problems that are responsible for causing some of the most significant remaining bottlenecks and challenges on the way towards an ecologically sustainable economy. Alongside Neste, Isomäki highlights many other Finnish businesses with much to offer, including CLC members Fortum, Outotec, StoraEnso and Wärtsilä as well as a number of promising startups.

Zero Emissions Day highlights role of consumers

“Although we are seeing the decoupling of greenhouse gas emissions and economic growth, the overall picture remains worrying. Technological and structural improvements have not been delivered quickly enough to make up for the rise in consumer spending,” explained development manager Ari Nissinen from the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE). In 2015, Finland’s consumption-based emissions were 33% higher than the territorial emissions which are the officially reported emissions generated by a country. Life-cycle emissions from Finnish household consumption remain at the same level as they were in 2000.

CLC member organisations used Zero Emissions Day as an opportunity to encourage consumers to make “climate positive” choices across housing, transport, food as well as everyday spending. The aim of Zero Emissions Day, celebrated on Saturday, 21 September, is to give the planet a day off from fossil fuels and to focus attention on the impact of consumer choices on climate change. Thanks to the many new innovations emerging from Finland, it seems that the zero emissions target is a realistic and achievable one – and not just on one day a year.

Sari Siitonen
Zero Emissions Day Coordinator, CLC

The Autumn Meeting marked CLC’s 5th anniversary.