9 June, 2016

Finland, the EU and the 1.5°C limit in the Paris Agreement

Finland and the European Union need to strengthen their climate pledges, rapidly cut emissions and speed up introducing renewables into the energy mix to be in line with the 1.5°C warming limit in the Paris Agreement, according to a new report.

A new Climate Analytics report analyses the implications of the Paris climate Agreement for energy and climate policy in Finland and the European Union.

“The study commissioned by SITRA is among the very first looking into the implications of the Paris Agreement 1.5°C limit for a country or region,” says Dr Marcia Rocha, report lead author. “This conversation starter is essential to engage the national and international communities in Finland and in the EU in the development of strategies consistent with a future that avoids the most dangerous impacts of climate change, in line with the Paris Agreement.”

To determine what emission reductions are needed for Finland and EU’s climate policies to be compatible with the 1.5°C limit, report authors considered this questions from two perspectives: the least-cost approach and the equity approach, which takes into account historic responsibility and current capability to determine a fair share effort reduction. The least cost approach provides an indication of the domestic reductions needed, and the equity approach an indication of the additional emission reductions that wealthier countries need to support or fund in developing countries.

The report finds that current climate pledges by Finland and the EU for are not sufficient to meet the temperature goal agreed in Paris.

Under the least-cost approach, Finland would need to cut emissions by 60% below 1990 levels by 2030, compared with its current 2°C goal of -40%. By 2050, domestic emissions would need to become negative with reductions of 135% below 1990 levels, compared with its current 2°C goal of -80%.
The equity approach would require even deeper emission cuts of at least 150% below 1990 levels by 2050 to be in line with the long-term temperature goal in the Paris Agreement.

For the EU, the least-cost approach entails a 50% emission cut below 1990 levels by 2030 compared with its present 2°C goal of -40%. By 2050, the EU would need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions domestically by about 90%, which is within the 80-95% reduction range already adopted. However, to reflect a fair share effort, EU would need to cut emissions by at least 75% below 1990 levels by 2030 and at least 164% below 1990 levels by 2050, almost double the present target.

For Finland this could mean that the equivalent of about 0.1% of projected GDP in 2030 and about 0.7% in 2050 may need to be invested in emission reductions abroad. For the EU the corresponding figures are around 0.6% in 2030 and around 2% in 2050. These estimates have a wide range but provide a broad indication of plausible climate mitigation finance needs.

The report suggests both Finland and the EU significantly improve their climate pledges (known as Nationally Determined Contributions) to be consistent with the 1.5°C limit in the Paris Agreement. It would be very important for EU leadership on climate internationally to do this in time for the 2018 global stocktake, which will assess if national emission reduction levels together are sufficient to meet the Paris Agreement goals (Facilitative Dialogue).

The key to achieving these deeper emission reductions in Finland is addressing energy efficiency in the industry, buildings and transport sectors, phasing out coal by 2030 and oil by 2060 while rapidly replacing fossil fuel energy generation with renewables.

The report also highlights the likely longer term importance of negative emission technologies, specifically biomass with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) in the second half the century but emphasises that rapid scaling up of climate action is decisive.

“The sooner we reduce emissions, the less we need to rely on negative emission technologies, which are not without risks and raise valid sustainability concerns,” says Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics.

The report was commissioned by SITRA, a Finnish public fund tasked with promoting Finland’s sustainable development, economic growth and international competitiveness and co-operation.

Climate Analytics’ Bill Hare and Marcia Rocha presented the report at an event in Helsinki attended by Finnish government representatives and climate policy and energy experts.

The report is in English and contains a summary in Finnish.

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