Finland has flat plains in the southern and central parts and mountains in the northertn parts of the country. Also known as the Land of a Thousand Lakes, 10 percent of the country is covered by inland lakes and rivers.
In the latter half of the 20th century Finland converted from an agrarian economy to a diverse and modern manufacturing economy. It is currently among the more affluent nations in Western Europe. Part of the European Union since 1995, Finland was the only Scandinavian country to embrace the Euro at its initiation in January, 1999.
Environmental Issues of Finland
Finland has a long history of logging and the industry has had a significant negative effect on the native forest ecosystem. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), approximately 700 forest species in Finland are classified as endangered due to logging. The WWF has said the country’s insufficiently small nature reserves and lack of old trees exacerbates this problem.
In addition to affecting forest biodiversity, the Finnish logging industry has played a part in contaminating rivers and groundwater, with fertilizers from the agriculture industry also adding to this pollution. In the 1980s, sulfur and nitrogen pollutants were greater in Finland than in many other European countries.
Logging in Finland has contributed to contamination of rivers and groundwater as well as having a big impact on forest biodiversity. Image Credits: Taina Sohlman/shutterstock.com
A 2014 report by the Finnish Environment Institute revealed the 2008 global financial crisis had seriously hindered progress made towards environmental goals and new environmental legislation. In particular, the report found the country’s approach to talking climate change had stalled significantly.
Environmental Policies of Finland
In spite of the report, Finland has, like many European countries, embraced many progressive environmental protection and sustainability policies..
In 1983, Finland created the Ministry of Environment to set up departments focused on specific aspects of conservation and nature policy. This ministry largely floundered without a cohesive environmental policy, until the development of more sophisticated monitoring and pollution-measuring technologies to assess water and air quality.
More recently, laws have been approved to manage pollutants from manufacturing plants to enhance air quality. Policies were also enacted to clean up rivers and lakes. Actions have been taken, in conjunction with bordering countries, to protect the Baltic Sea. Finnish laws have also been passed to protect the country’s many environments.
Smart and Clean Innovations from Finland Video Credits: Tekesvideo/YouTube
These policies are beginning to bear fruit as numerous reports show improvements in polluted lakes and rivers. Furthermore, air quality has risen significantly around industrial locations and the country has created a network of protected nature areas.
Finland has embraced many international agreements and standards to reduce climate change, but critics have pointed out that these efforts have lagged as Europe continues to contend with the fallout from the 2008 economic crisis and financially tumultuous Eurozone.
Clean Technology in Finland
Finnish supporters point out that because the country is limited when it comes to natural resources it has always had to do more with less,and this conservation-focused mentality has given Finland an edge in the highly-competitive and expanding global clean tech market
Currently, Finland’s portion of the global clean technology industry is more than double its GDP, and the country’s population is so small this could easily double that share by 2020. From 2011 to 2012, though the country’s overall economy has not grown, the clean technology industry has risen by 15 %.
Clean technology in Finland is largely focused on energy efficiency solutions for business, as opposed to flashy consumer products. These solutions include using biomass as a renewable energy source and efficient waste management.
In addition to large commercial clean technology companies like KONE and Neste Oil, Finland has a thriving startup culture, featuring a clean technology incubator in downtown Helsinki.
A Clean Future?
The country claims a large renewable energy sector; however, that renewable energy is based heavily on emission-producing biomass. Presently, 29% of all Finland’s energy is produced using advanced biofuels. Producing biofuels from biomass is an emerging technology with promising results; however, its effect on biodiversity must be addressed before scaling up the process on a national level.
Furthermore, the prospects for wind and solar energy in Finland are poor. The Nordic country experiences little sunlight for much of the year and when the sun does shine, it’s at a lower angle due to the country’s latitude.
Wind power is being explored as a possibility, but with Finland’s small coastal water often clogged with ice, obtaining wind power from offshore turbines is more complicated than in other countries.
However, nuclear energy, hydro energy and bioenergy are driving the energy sector in Finland.
Currently Finland is an emerging world leader in clean energy. It aims to be using green transport for at least 30% of its vehicles by the end of 2030. Including long distance transport such as freight, shipping and aviation, where biofuels will be utilized.
Sources and Further Reading
Reviewed by Ramya Dwivedi
Finland: Environmental Issues, Policies and Clean Technology
Helsinki's trams have been specifically designed with environmental aspects in mind and, by 2018, there will be 40 "Artic" trams operating in the city. Image credit: Nikiforov Alexander / Shutterstock.com.
This waste to energy conversion facility in Turku, Finland, is helping the country turn their unwanted waste and rubbish into usable energy. Image credit: Vnnen / Wikimedia Commons.