With the EU unable to agree on a net zero carbon goal, Finland offered a ray of hope – just before it takes over the EU presidency next week.

Finland had already established itself as a climate leader in the region before this week, and the city of Espoo has been ranked the most sustainable city in Europe. Last year, the government was one of the first in the world to put an end date on gas-guzzling cars; 2030.  

The government had implemented ending sales of diesel cars.

However, the Nordic country’s presentation of its climate plan at the UN yesterday was perhaps its proudest moment to date.

IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth


After listening to climate action presentations from Australia, Iceland and Denmark, it was Finland’s progress on energy efficiency, agriculture and decreasing fuel consumption that drew the largest praise. While Finland’s negotiators highlighted the range of policies that have helped the country move towards a goal of 80% renewable energy by 2050, many in the room were well aware of the new government’s commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2035. 

“According to Finland’s 2019 greenhouse gas inventory submission to the UNFCCC, in 2017 the total greenhouse gas emissions without the LULUCF sector were 55.4 million tonnes CO2 eq”

Finland’s chief negotiator Outi Honkatukia further added; “approximately 22 % (16.1 million tonnes) below the 1990 emissions level.” 

The presentation bodes well for Finland’s role as EU President, which will come into play next week. With every Presidency however, the efficacy of the leadership will often come down to their diplomatic culture. 

Underlying Finland’s climate policies and potential leadership is a concept known locally as “sisu”. While not directly translatable, “sisu” refers to a sense of stoic determination, purpose and resilience. 

At next week’s opening meeting of the new EU Presidency, Finland’s own sense of “sisu” and may play a key role in overcoming the bloc’s energy divide that erupted only last week in Brussels.

Chris Wright

About Chris Wright

Co-founder and Director of Climate Tracker. Based in Borneo. Trail Running convert.