For the first time, the Finnish Environment Institute (Syke) has published consumption-based greenhouse gas emissions data for all Finnish municipalities and regions. The emissions per capita vary considerably between different municipalities and regions. As a result of the consumption of imported goods, a significant portion of emissions is also directed abroad.
“The calculation of consumption-based greenhouse gas emissions is a natural continuation of Syke’s internationally unique emissions calculation system.
For the first time, we can receive systematic information on how emissions are distributed between households and the municipal organisation within the municipality,” says Santtu Karhinen, Senior Research Scientist at the Finnish Environment Institute.
According to the new emissions calculations, the combined consumption-based greenhouse gas emissions of Finnish municipalities are approximately 57.4 MtCO2e. Of these municipal emissions, 83 per cent stem from household consumption, 11 per cent from municipal procurements and the remaining 6 per cent from investments.
With regard to household consumption emissions, housing accounts for 25 per cent, food consumption for 23 per cent, transportation for 22 per cent, other goods for 16 per cent and other services for 14 per cent.
Emissions from municipal procurements stem mainly from the purchase of services, which accounts for 60 per cent of all municipal procurement emissions. In investments, construction-related emissions are highlighted. There is significant regional variance in the shares.
Considerable geographical differences in consumption-based emissions
Regionally, Kainuu has the highest combined consumption-based emissions per capita. In the Uusimaa region, construction activities, which are more intensive than in the rest of the country, are reflected in higher investment emission levels. Central Finland and Pirkanmaa have the lowest consumption-based household emissions.
In the northern regions of Kainuu, Lapland and North Ostrobothnia, housing emissions are higher than average, partly due to the climate conditions. In addition to the need for heat, among other things, the fuel distribution of district heating also plays a significant role in housing emissions.
Geographical characteristics and the availability of public transport largely determine the emissions from transportation. This is why, compared to municipalities in urban areas, the emissions from passenger car traffic are particularly pronounced in rural and semi urban municipalities.
However, emissions from transport services (including air travel) are, on average, higher in urban municipalities.
In urban municipalities, food consumption is more focused on plant-based products than in rural and semi urban municipalities. Thus, the emissions from food consumption are lowest in urban municipalities.
On the other hand, restaurant services are used more frequently in cities than in less populated areas, which works to even out the differences between different types of regions in terms of emissions from food consumption. With regards to other goods and services, such as clothing, healthcare services and culture and leisure services, consumption emissions are very similar across the different types of regions.
“However, when interpreting the results, it should be noted that one regional type will include municipalities that differ in, for example, their demographic and geographical characteristics, which are reflected in the differences between municipalities,” says Karhinen.
Roughly half of Finland’s household emissions are directed abroad
Municipal consumption-based emissions also include emissions due to consumption of imported goods. Thus, the results display the climate emissions from our consumption that extends beyond our municipal boundaries; most importantly, also including emissions arising from production that takes place outside Finland.
“This is why Finns cannot transfer the responsibility for climate work to other countries. Roughly half of Finnish household consumption’s climate emissions are outsourced abroad, which is why ambitious climate work should be aimed at reducing emissions on a global scale,” says Karhinen.
The public sector and companies play an important role in reducing consumption-based emissions
In Karhinen’s opinion, it is important to understand that reducing consumption-based emissions is a joint effort between the public sector, companies and households. The public sector develops the operating environment of companies and households, within the constraints of which emissions can be reduced.
For example, a municipality or region’s district heating fuel choices are reflected in the production of companies operating in the area and, consequently, also in the emissions of the consumers of the products, i.e. the residents.
The community structure, the promotion of walking and cycling and the development of public transport can influence the transportation choices of the residents of a municipality. It is important for the residents to demand an operating environment that supports the reduction of the carbon footprint from consumption.
“The main purpose of the calculation is to show that a region’s climate emissions are the sum of its operators. The calculations also show that households need support from companies and local government in order to reduce emissions stemming from consumption. With the help of the data, measures can be planned and targeted effectively,” says Karhinen.
The results complete the emissions data service for municipalities and regions
The calculation of consumption-based greenhouse gas emissions is complementary to the emissions data service for municipalities and regions maintained by the Finnish Environment Institute since 2020. The calculation has been implemented as part of the Towards Carbon Neutral Municipalities and Regions (Canemure) project.
The calculation principles differ significantly from the principles of more traditional usage-based calculation principles. In the calculation of usage-based emissions, the starting point is in emissions generated within a set geographical area. In contrast, the consumption-based approach looks at the emissions arising from the production of a commodity consumed in a municipality, regardless of the region in which it is produced.
For example, emissions from agricultural production are allocated to municipalities on the basis of where the goods produced by the agricultural actors are consumed. Similarly, emissions from the production of imported goods are allocated to the municipality where the imported goods are procured and consumed.
The calculations are based on data from 2015. For the next calculation update, the Finnish Environment Institute will use the data from 2019.
“Since 2015, there have been very positive developments in the emissions from housing and transportation in particular, as heating solutions for buildings and the propulsion of passenger vehicles have moved further in the direction of low emissions. It will also be interesting to see where the emissions development is heading with regard to food and other goods and services,” says Karhinen.
Source: The Finnish Environment Institute (Syke)