New law to put Finland at forefront of climate change fight

26 September 2008

Success for Friends of the Earth Finland's Big Ask campaign

Brussels/Helsinki, 26 September 2008 - The Finnish parliament yesterday agreed to consider a law to cut the country's climate changing emissions by five per cent every year. Members of the Finnish Parliament debated two climate bills which, if made law, would set legally binding annual targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and put Finland at the forefront of the fight against climate change in Europe.

Bills were submitted by both opposition and government MPs and sent to the environmental committee for further steps.

The draft bills, which have multi-partisan support, mark a major milestone for Friends of the Earth Finland's Big Ask campaign and follow months of intense campaigning. In February the group launched its Big Ask, part of a pan-European campaign in which Friends of the Earth groups in 17 European countries are calling on their governments to introduce legally binding annual emissions cuts.

Since the campaign began almost 17,000 people in Finland have written to parliament demanding a climate law. 45 of the country's 200 MPs have answered the demand and are supporting the draft law. A report released by the Prime Minister's office confirmed that there are no major obstacles for a climate law in the Finnish political and juridical system.

Ms Meri Pukarinen, coordinator of the Finnish Big Ask campaign, said: "Finland now has the opportunity to become the first European country to fully fulfill its responsibility in tackling climate chaos. The political pressure created through the Big Ask campaign forces the parliament to debate a climate bill. We now expect the government to take the threat of climate change seriously and make sure the climate bill is approved."

The bill aims to ensure Finland does its fair share to keep average global temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius - the accepted limit necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, and the stated aim of the European Union.

The latest discussions on the EU's energy package in Brussels suggest the EU will fail to adopt policies consistent with this aim. To be in line with the two degree target the EU would have to reduce their emissions by at least 30 per cent in 2020 within Europe and in addition support mitigation and adaptation efforts in developing countries. But, in a signal of failing ambition, the European Parliament's industry committee voted on Monday to allow EU member states the flexibility to 'offset' up to 80 per cent of their non-industry emissions by funding dubious projects in the developing world. If agreed by other MEPs this would mean that by 2020 Europe's non-industry emissions would be reduced by only 2 per cent in comparison to 1990.

Sonja Meister, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, said: "This ambitious draft climate law in Finland ups the pressure on European decision-makers to agree a strong energy package. With this law on the cards, the EU risks having to play catch-up on climate change with national government when it proclaims to be taking the lead."

Since February Friends of the Earth Finland have built pressure on MPs for a climate law through actions in numerous Finnish cities, including demonstrations by snowmen in 22 cities and a human banner reading 'Climate law now' which filled the stairs of the parliament building to welcome MPs back to work in September.

16 communities and NGOs, coordinated by Friends of the Earth Finland, are campaigning for the climate law.

The European Big Ask is Friends of the Earth's Europe-wide climate campaign which aims to get governments and the European Union to commit to legally binding annual cuts in emissions to fight climate change. The Big Ask calls on the European Union to commit to at least 30 per cent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions within Europe by 2020 and 90 per cent by 2050. The Big Ask was launched Europe-wide earlier this year in Brussels by Thom Yorke of Radiohead.