Two influential environmental groups have Finnish government on trial for not doing enough to stop global warming. The trial gives is an indication for the direction the battle against global warming is taking.
The Artic reindeer is one key species threatened by global warming.
Two environmental groups of Finland - Greenpeace Norden and the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation are suing the Finnish government for failing to take action on climate change. This will be the country’s first climate trial.
The country has adopted the most ambitious climate target into a law. These environmental groups feel that the government's climate policy measures are not enough to achieve the goals of the new Climate Change Act that has been passed by the government.
To understand why environmental groups are suing their country, let us look at the new Climate Change Act, which was passed by the Finnish government.
Climate Change Act
The new Climate Change Act was passed into law on May 25, 2022. It will repeal the Climate Change Act, which has been in effect in Finland since 2015. The present Climate Change Act and the new Climate Change Act both define goals and provisions for Finland's climate policy planning and implementation monitoring. It provides a framework for the country’s effort to combat climate change.
The new climate targets are defined by the new Climate Change Act, along with the carbon neutrality goal, the law has set targets for emission reduction goals for 2030 and 2040. The Act also includes the goal of increasing carbon sinks. As a result of the reform, the act will include land-use sectors as well - agriculture and forestry. The new Climate Change Act's main goal is to make sure Finland becomes carbon neutral by 2035 at the latest.
A carbon sink is anything that removes more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it absorbs, such as soil, plants, and the ocean. For the fight against climate crisis, nature also has its own way to prevent the planet’s average temperature from rising, one such way is the carbon sink.
Concerns of the environment groups of Finland
There is a significant gap between previous climate targets and the targets which are set in the new Climate Change Act, making it difficult to meet them. The government has set new goals in the new Climate Change Act while not focussing on completing the previous set targets. While enacting specific climate policies and goals, the government has not been very successful.
The main concern of the organization is the land-use sector which has turned into a major emitter of greenhouse gas emissions. The Annual Climate Report 2022, has also mentioned that for the first time, the land-use sector went from being a carbon sink to a major source of emissions,increasing net emissions.
Greenpeace Norden and the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation have jointly filed for a legal action against the government as they claim that the increased logging and slower tree growth in Finland have caused the country's carbon sinks to "collapse."
Hanna Aho, Policy Officer for the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation, said "The government has violated its own Climate Change Act by not taking a decision on additional measures to meet Finland's climate targets."
The organizations went to court as they felt that the government failed to assess the steps brought on by the sink collapse and instead passed new actions and measures and have set new targets. The government needs to determine whether more measures are necessary to address the problem.
The organizations demand that the government’s decision should be declared invalid and should focus on new considerations. The government must provide measures and strategies for forest industries to be within the bounds of the climate.The first climate trial in Finland was initiated for this reason, to claim the right to the climate and to preserve the trees and forests.
Moreover if the targets of the emissions are not met, they signal a serious dilemma for Finland, as it will have legal responsibilities under European Union legislation, which requires the countries to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, setting a target for 55% net reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
Land-use as a source of emissions
The reason for Finland’s forest which have turned into a major source of emissions is the slow growth of its forests, excessive felling and increase in logging.
According to data, the land-use sector emitted 2.1 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO 2 eq) in 2021. The emissions by the land-use were much higher than the net sink of forests.
Forests are the most significant reserve for reducing climate change. They serve as significant carbon sinks by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. When these forests are burned in the process of deforestation, the carbon stored can be released as carbon dioxide and contribute to global warming and climate crisis.
What happens in this trial will give an indication on which way people's movements against global warming will take around the world.