Transport emissions to zero by 2045

Ministry of Transport and Communications
Publication date 12.12.2018 12.12
Press release
Picture: Ministry of Transport and Communications
Picture: Ministry of Transport and Communications

An expert group on transport climate policy under the Ministry of Transport and Communications has drafted a proposal for an action plan for eliminating greenhouse gas emissions in domestic transport by 2045. The solution for carbon-free transport lies in zero- and low-emission cars as well as in renewable fuels, mileage reduction of passenger cars and sustainable forms of transportation.

The newly published proposal for an action plan consists of 28 measures for achieving carbon-free transport and eliminating fossil fuels without unreasonable costs for society. The measures have been divided into four categories.

1. Carbon-free transport necessitates changes in the ways people move for mobility to become sustainable.

2. The efficiency of goods transport needs to be increased.

3. The vehicle fleet has to be renewed and replaced with zero- and low-emission cars.

4. The use of renewable fuels must be increased until 2030.

"The working group was given a clear assignment: how to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions in transport by 2045. Its progress has convinced me that a transition into carbon-free transport is feasible. The transport sector also needs the courage to carry out ambitious emission reduction measures so that we can together contain the climate change threatening the humankind" said chair of the working group Juhapekka Ristola from the Ministry of Transport and Communications.

Transport produces one fifth of the greenhouse gas emissions in Finland. According to the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published in October, urgent measures are required to keep the climate warming at 1.5 degrees as compared to the pre-industrial era. The action plan builds on the Government's medium-term climate policy plan, according to which Finland should be carbon-neutral by 2045.

The action plan is governed by the 'polluter pays principle'. The measures reducing transport emissions would be covered by increasing the taxes and fees for activities that produce most emissions. For example, the tax for fossil fuels and high-emission vehicles would be increased by small increments every year. On the other hand, transition into emission-free technologies and sustainable forms of mobility would be supported. The tax burden on transport would not increase as a whole, but the taxes would be allocated differently. 

Some of the proposed measures could, in addition to the desired emission reduction, also have negative effects on companies and households. It is estimated that mobility and transport costs will increase, which may not necessarily be sufficiently covered by subsidies and incentives in the transport sector. In the future, it should be considered whether there is a need for a more extensive tax reform, which will secure commuting possibilities and transport services in the whole country while promoting the transition towards low-emission transport. 

Community planning is at the heart of sustainable mobility since in the best case, it will guide people to move on foot or by bicycle or to use carpooling or public transportation. Improvements in the provision of low-emission transport services will provide alternatives to private cars, especially in urban areas.

It is not the intention to restrict mobility and transportation in pursuit of emission reductions. The objective is to guide people to adopt sustainable solutions, which may vary in cities, between cities and in sparsely populated areas. Mobility services are more important in urban areas, where the potential for reducing emissions is also the highest. In sparsely populated areas people are more often dependent on a private car.

Decrease in transport performance as the target

The first objective is that the performance of passenger cars, i.e. their vehicle kilometres, start to decrease in 2025, after which the passenger car mileage will no longer increase. On the other hand, the combined travel performance of rail transport, coach transport, cycling and walking will double by 2045. This will be encouraged especially by adopting tolls in urban areas and by investing in a sustainable transport system. 

More efficient goods transport

In the field of goods transport and logistics, the objective is to increase the efficiency of transport services. If this succeeds, the performance of vans and lorries, i.e. their vehicle kilometres, would increase only slightly by 2045. The performance in domestic waterborne and rail transport would remain close to the present level or possibly increase slightly if some of the transport services would shift to waterways or railways. The most effective single measure is to increase the fuel tax. 

Zero- and low-emission means of transport become more common 

The third objective is to accelerate the renewal rate of the means of transport and to increase the share of zero- and low-emission vehicles in the vehicle fleet from the current few per cents to hundred per cent. According to the action plan, in 2030 there will be approximately 670 000 electric cars in Finland and approximately 130 000 gas-fueled cars and in 2045 approximately 2 million electric cars and 250 000 gas-fueled cars. In respect of heavy vehicles, the corresponding objectives are approximately 7 000 electric vehicles and 6 000 gas-fueled vehicles in 2030 and approximately 42 000 electric vehicles and 22 000 gas-fueled vehicles in 2045.

This development will be supported, in particular, by fuel tax increases and aid for acquisitions. The emissions of old cars are on average higher than those of new cars. In the case of an average car, the manufacturing accounts for around 10 to 15 per cent of the carbon dioxide emissions during the car's whole lifetime. 

Increase in the share of renewable fuels

A further objective is to increase the share of liquid biofuels to 30 per cent of all liquid fuels in domestic transport in 2030 and to 100 per cent in 2045. The absolute volume of liquid biofuels in road transport will not, however, increase after 2030. In addition to liquid biofuels, the use of domestically produced biogas will be strongly increased. A prohibition on the sale of fossil transport fuels in 2045 would promote the shift to renewable fuels and alternative sources of energy.

Expert group's view for the elimination of transport emissions 

Experts from the following organisations participated in drafting the action plan: the Helsinki Regional Transport Authority, the University of Helsinki, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, Intelligent Transport Systems Finland (ITS Finland), the Ministry of Transport and Communications, the Finnish Transport Agency, the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, the Tampere University of Technology, the Technology Industries of Finland, the Finnish Transport Safety Agency, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, the Ministry of Finance, the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority, the Ministry of Environment, and Fortum, Gasum and Neste. A large group of experts from various organisations also participated in writing the report. The Technical Research Centre of Finland VTT carried out calculations for the report on the basis of their vehicle fleet model.

What next?

The action plan has been designed so that it could be implemented during the two following government terms. The working group did not take a direct stand on the levels to be set for the measures. An impact assessment was carried out on the measures proposed in the action plan on the basis of the existing knowledge. Further assessments are necessary especially in respect of measures related to transport taxation. 

Chair of the working group, Juhapekka Ristola, Ministry of Transport and Communications, tel. +358 40 078 8530, [email protected], Twitter @jpristola
Vice chair of the working group, Director Sabina Lindström, Ministry of Transport and Communications, tel. +358 40 527 6103, [email protected], Twitter @LindstromSabina
Secretary of the working group, Senior Ministerial Adviser Johanna Särkijärvi, Ministry of Transport and Communications, tel.  +358 295 34 2024, [email protected], Twitter @josalvm
Secretary of the working group, Senior Ministerial Adviser Saara Jääskeläinen, Ministry of Transport and Communications, p. +358 295 34 2560, [email protected], Twitter @SaaraJskelinen1
Director General Juhani Damski, Finnish Meteorological Institute, tel. +358 295 392 201, [email protected], Twitter @JuhaniDamski
Professor Markku Ollikainen, University of Helsinki, tel. +358 2941 58065, [email protected]
Director Mari Pantsar, Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, tel. +358 294 618 210, [email protected], Twitter @MariPantsar
Assistant Professor Heikki Liimatainen, Tampere University of Technology, tel. +358 40 8490 320, [email protected], Twitter @liikenneproffa

The other working group members may also be contacted for further information. For their contact details, see the list attached to this press release.