Finnish forests are a big part in the government's plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035, Source: Unsplash

First-ever climate trial in Finland, and the government is the defendant

First-ever climate trial in Finland, and the government is the defendant

Environmental activists accuse the authorities of failing to stay on the carbon neutrality course

Greenpeace and the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation have taken the Finnish government to court with the accusation that the authorities have shown criminal negligence by falling short of climate objectives. This is the first such legal trial in the history of the Nordic country and it shows the passion and commitment that the civic sector there is espousing when it comes to getting real on climate action.

The two NGOs have stated in the case that there is a real danger that the Finnish carbon neutrality status will not be achieved by 2035 and it is the executive branch’s fault.

The organisations say the government's Annual Climate Report has not taken sufficient notice of data published earlier this year showing that Finland's land-use sector is now a net emitter of greenhouse gas emissions.

Suing authorities into action

The NGOs say that an unprecedented collapse in carbon removal by Finnish forests has removed the basis on which the country's climate policies are decided. Finland's forests are growing more slowly, and in 2021 more trees were felled than at any other time in the country's history.

According to the Finnish Climate Change Act, the government is legally obliged to work towards carbon neutrality by 2035, and its actions are evaluated in an annual climate report. The report acknowledged a collapse in Finnish forests' ability to absorb carbon dioxide but shied away from recommending additional measures to compensate for it.

That, however, was not received well by the activists who immediately decided to seek legal justice and to have the court declare the government as being neglectful of the environment.

Statistics Finland had already indicated that things were going that way back in May, and Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Antti Kurvinen told Yle news agency in June that he takes the collapsing carbon sink numbers seriously. He, however, also emphasised that the numbers were preliminary.

As a redress, the two organisations claim that the authorities must re-write the report – this time, including additional emissions-cutting measures in it to compensate for the collapse in the carbon drawdown.



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