Environmental organisations Greenpeace Norden and the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation are taking the Finnish government to court due to lack of climate action. Finland’s new Climate Change Act sets a target of reaching carbon neutrality by 2035 – a target recommended by Finland’s Climate Council – but now that Finland’s carbon sinks have collapsed the goal is becoming unreachable, as is Finland’s carbon sink commitment under EU regulation. In light of Finland’s Climate Change Act, the state should decide on additional action when necessary, if found in non-compliance with its targets and plans. But now it has failed to do so in a sufficient manner. That’s why the organisations are seeking legal protection from the Supreme Administrative Court.
This will be the first climate litigation in Finland.
Environmental organisations have launched an appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court on the Finnish government’s decision to submit to the Parliament the Annual Climate Report 2022 without properly evaluating the need for additional action and launching a procedure to decide on additional measures and update sectoral climate plans. The collapse of Finland’s carbon sinks in 2021 has created a situation where the government’s climate policy plans are insufficient for meeting the Climate Act’s targets.
”Finland has science-based climate goals and a climate law that is meant to ensure that the goals are reached. Finns can be proud of that. But now the government has neglected its legal duty to assess the adequacy of action and, as needed, to decide on additional measures, sufficient to meet the goals. This is why it’s our duty as NGOs to seek for a court ruling on this”, says Greenpeace Norden’s Senior Climate Policy Advisor Kaisa Kosonen.
According to the Climate Change Act, Finland’s target is to become carbon neutral by 2035 and carbon negative thereafter. The law also sets emission reduction targets for 2030, 2040 and 2050, along with a goal of strengthening carbon sinks. The climate law obligates ministries to adopt climate policy plans in order to meet the goals Finland has committed to in the Climate Act itself as well as in international agreements and EU legislation. The law also obligates the Finnish government to assess the progress towards the goals, on an annual basis, and to take “necessary” additional action, when necessary.
Now, for the first time, Finland’s land use sector has become a net source of emissions rather than a net carbon sink. The reason is estimated to be intensive forest logging and the slowing down of forest growth. Since the i data revealing the sink collapse was published, the Finnish government has had several opportunities to fix the situation but it hasn’t used the opportunities to do so. The Annual Climate Report 2022 recognised the changed, difficult situation, but despite the requirements in the law, it failed to evaluate the need for additional measures in a sufficient manner, and failed to launch a procedure to adopt additional measures.
”Carbon sinks have become a defining issue in Finland’s climate politics. The prime minister Sanna Marin’s government’s inaction is in stark contrast with the obligations of the climate law. Now we want to find out what kind of legal protection people and carbon sinks have. Climate goals written in the law cannot be just empty words. Actions must be aligned with the goals”, comments Hanna Aho, the Climate Policy Officer of the Finnish Association for Nature Protection.
As a next step the appeal by the environmental organisations will be considered by the Supreme Administrative Court. The Annual Climate Report 2022 is the first of its kind under the new law and new targets so the environmental organisations consider it important to get a ruling from the court on whether the law’s mechanism of monitoring, reporting and taking corrective action as necessary works as intended
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