Who leads the way when it comes to the climate?

Finland has the most ambitious climate goals in the Nordic Region, aiming to become carbon-neutral in 2030 and carbon-negative shortly after. Denmark has just raised its ambitions, agreeing upon a new climate legislation committing to reducing emissions by 70% from 1990 levels by 2030.

Iceland aims to become carbon-neutral by 2040, mainly by phasing out fossil fuels in transport and by increasing carbon sequestration. However, emissions have increased since 1990, largely due to the growth in transport emissions and an increase in the energy-intensive industry.

Sweden’s target is net zero emissions by 2045, while Norway’s aim is to become a low-emission society by reducing emissions by 80-95% by 2050. Norway’s target of a 40% reduction by 2030 is much less ambitious than similar targets for Denmark and Finland, and even more concerning, current projections only indicate a 7% decrease in Norway’s GHG emissions by 2030.

The report highlights that the Nordic climate footprint would be much larger than current figures indicate if consumption emissions, including emissions embedded in goods and services produced elsewhere, were taken into account. Moreover, agriculture, forestry and international shipping, all significant Nordic industries, are not included in the current international carbon budgets. The task of achieving carbon neutrality in the Nordic Region is therefore even bigger than it seems.

For example, Nordic sustainable forest management is vital for supporting the production of biofuels, at the same time as maintaining the GHG-removal benefits from diverse forest landscapes. This interplay between forests as an exploitable resource and as a natural resource that needs to be preserved for its widespread environmental benefits is expected to be a prominent policy issue in the upcoming decades, particularly in Finland, Sweden and Norway. UNFCCC data (2019) shows that forest land in the Nordic Countries remove 32% of the Nordic GHG output annually.

Other highlights from State of the Nordic Region 2020

The Faroe Islands are the only part of the Nordic Region that has fertility rates above replacement levels, with 2.5 children per woman, followed by Greenland at 2.0.

Sweden offers the longest parental leave, 68 weeks in total. Icelandic fathers take the largest share of the total parental leave, 30%, whereas Danish fathers only take 10%.

Finland has the lowest share of foreign-born people in its population, 7%, which is still a significant increase from 1990 when it was just 1.3%. Sweden has the highest share, 19%.

Denmark saw the largest increase in the share of renewables in gross final consumption, 20%, between 2004 and 2017. Despite this, Denmark’s share of renewables, 36%, is lower than in the other Nordic countries – 72% in Iceland, 71% in Norway, 54% in Sweden and 41% in Finland.

It comes as no surprise that Norway leads the way when it comes to electric vehicles. In the first quarter of 2019, EVs accounted for 60% of Norway’s total passenger vehicle sales, but only 19% in the Nordic Region.

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