It is set to become the first country to bring such a law
The Finnish government has announced plans to stop using coal in energy production by 2030, in a bid to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050. The ‘Energy and Climate Strategy for 2030 and Beyond’, which also includes plans to make energy production carbon-neutral by 2050 and replace traditional power sources with bio-fuels and renewable energy, will be presented to the Parliament for approval in March, 2017. ‘Finland is well positioned to be among the first countries in the world to enact a law to ban coal. This will be my proposal’, Minister of Economic Affairs Olli Rehn told Reuters, adding that ‘giving up coal is the only way to reach international climate goals’. Coal-free Finland campaign is supporting this cause.
Coal use has been steadily declining in Finland since 2011, and since 2012 there has been heavy investment in renewable energy. Moreover, Nordic energy prices, with the exception of coal, have been dropping since 2010. As a result of all these, coal now provides only 8% of the nation’s energy and many coal-fired power plants are being shut all over the country. But even though the government wants to phase out coal, it will continue to burn peat in the near-term, largely due to the fact it is produced domestically.
Finland ahead of other nations
Last year, Britain announced plans to shut down the coal-fired power plants lacking a carbon capture and storage (CCS) system by 2025. Denmark is aiming to become fossil fuel-free by 2050, but it has no binding targets or bans for coal use. Canada has also announced plans to phase out traditional coal by 2030, and only a couple of provinces will be permitted to use coal beyond this date if they reduce emissions with CSS systems.
Finnish Energy (ET), the branch organization representing electricity-producing companies, has expressed strong concerns about the decision. “The discussion about prohibiting the use of coal under law is inexplicable. Such an effort would not succeed without offering substantial compensation [to energy producers]. I fail to understand how the central administration can spend so recklessly and be so unappreciative of the situation in the energy markets,” says Jukka Leskelä, the managing director of ET. “The protection of property would be one of the most important questions. The Government is toying with it in a way that jeopardises the entire investment climate in the energy sector,” he adds, believing that such a prohibition would only damage the current energy system. “The use of coal has already been reduced to a fraction of what it was previously with the current system of steering and corporate investments, and the trend will remain the same in the future,” he says.