Finland has announced that it will seek to phase out coal-fired power plants by 2030 at the very latest. This follows on from the country’s ratification of the Paris agreement on November 14.
“Giving up coal is the only way to reach international climate goals,” Finland’s Minister for Economic Affairs, Olli Rehn, told Reuters.
Already, 79 percent of the country’s electricity supply comes from both renewable and nuclear power, and just 7 percent comes from coal – so it’s already well on its way to a low-carbon economy. Still, it seems keen on reducing that 7 percent to zero in the fastest time possible.
Thanks to its relatively clean energy infrastructure, Finland ranks just 67th on the list of the world’s most prolific greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters. It has a carbon footprint roughly the size of Norway and Sweden. All three together make up 1.3 percent of China’s 2015 GHG total.
In fact, Europe is doing fairly well when it comes to climate change mitigation. Just recently, the UK, France, Germany, and Sweden have signaled their intentions to eschew coal for good within the next 15 years.
Although the science has been around for decades, major nations are only now just beginning to truly acknowledge the threat climate change poses. Crystalizing around the Paris agreement, individual efforts to phase out greenhouse gas emitting fuels have really begun to ramp up thanks to a major shift in public perception.
In addition to this, renewables – particularly wind and solar power plants – are becoming cheaper to construct and run, and easier to implement. Coal, on the other hand, is increasingly expensive and a known air pollutant, and industries are losing interest in investing in it. Coal use is down in almost every major nation, even in China.
By transitioning to a coal-free economy, nations like Finland are paying attention to public opinion, energy security, and global trends. In other words, they are being sensible.
The US, sadly, is set to become distinctly silly in comparison. If the future President Trump does indeed to attempt to resurrect America’s collapsing coal industry, then it will be walking backwards as the world runs forwards.
In fact, the US is already doing so well on its transition to a low-carbon nation that no matter how hard he fights it, Trump may not actually be able to push back the tide. If America does fall behind under a Trump administration, however, then it looks certain that China and European countries will become the leaders in this fight – including, it now appears, Finland.