Fuel prices at a service station in Helsinki on 25 September 2023. The Finnish government’s efforts to lower fuel prices — namely the lowering of the distribution obligation for renewable fuel — have resulted in an increase in transport emissions, according to Helsingin Sanomat. (Markku Ulander – Lehtikuva)

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EFFORTS by the Finnish government to reduce diesel and petrol prices have resulted in an increase in emissions from road traffic, reports Helsingin Sanomat.

The newspaper wrote earlier this week that emissions from road traffic began to increase last year as a result of the government relaxing the distribution obligation for renewable fuels in an attempt to rein in fuel prices.

Fuel prices have decreased, transport emissions have increased.

Santtu Karhinen, a senior scientist at the Finnish Environment Institute (Syke), stated to Helsingin Sanomat on Monday that the trajectory does not bode well for emissions as the parliament is presently mulling over a government proposal that would keep the distribution obligation at 13.5 per cent.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s (SDP) government slashed the obligation by 7.5 percentage points to 13.5 per cent for 2022–2023 in response to the spikes in fuel prices witnessed in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The obligation was set to rise to 28 per cent as of the start of next year, but the current government is intent on keeping it at 13.5 per cent.

“This would be manifested as an over one-million-tonne increase in the emissions of Finnish municipalities in 2024,” told Karhinen.

With the distribution obligation for renewable fuels a key tool for reducing transport emissions, keeping it at the lower level will significantly complicate the national effort to halve transport emissions from the level of 2005 by 2030.

“Emission reductions in road traffic rest currently almost exclusively on the vehicle stock’s electrification,” he noted.

Road traffic was the largest source of the emissions of municipalities in 2022, accounting for nearly a third of all emissions. The next largest emission sources were agriculture and district heat production.

The decline in emissions slowed down not only because of the drop in the use of renewable transport fuels, but also because of an increase in the use of coal in energy production. Coal and peat have replaced natural gas and wood-based fuels in district heat production following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Greenhouse gas emissions from district heat production consequently grew by 2.3 per cent, despite a drop in energy consumption.

Karhinen told Helsingin Sanomat that the majority of municipalities will have to implement significant additional measures in order to reach the national goals, in domains such as building and industrial energy consumption, and especially in agriculture and road transport.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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