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5th Jul 2020

Finnish presidency hopes for 2050 climate target by 2020

The new Finnish EU presidency wants to agree on the 2050 climate neutrality target by the end of the year, the Finnish prime minister said, ahead of his country taking over the rotating presidency on 1 July.

"We want to find an agreement on the 2050 deal this year. The time of "yes, but..." policies are over," Antti Rinne told journalists in Helsinki on Wednesday (26 June).

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Finland takes over the six-month rotating presidency of the council of the EU in July, and a key priority for the 5.5m-strong country is climate action.

"Our presidency's slogan will be 'Sustainable Europe, Sustainable Future'," Rinne said.

Several EU countries signed up to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050 at a meeting of EU leaders last week, but opposition from Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic has prevented a clear target date of 2050.

Estonia also stayed away from endorsing the new target, which gained increased support among EU countries in the wake of the European elections in May that saw a swelling of Green lawmakers in the European Parliament.

Lacking a joint agreement, the EU summit's final document merely said in a footnote that "for a large majority of member states, climate neutrality must be achieved by 2050".

"I didn't interpret the discussion that they [the four countries] 'blocked the agreement' - they needed to get a little more information on how is the goal 2050 will improve their economic future," the prime minister said.

"There is a possibility to get also these three member states to accept the 2050 goal in a few months, there is hope to do that," the social democrat politician added, whose party won Finland's general elections in April.

The prime minister, for now, was reluctant to share how he plans to convince the three reluctant member states to come on board.

"They [four opposing member states] wanted to discuss the issue in their own country, to see clearly what it means for their economy, and they will come back to discuss it. I still don't know what they want, I need to hear then I can take a position on this question," he told reporters.

The 2050 climate neutrality target refers to an economy in which the emission of greenhouse gases caused by human activity is mostly prevented. Remaining emissions would be compensated through planting additional trees or capturing emissions and storing them.

The three member states said after the EU summit last week that their economies need compensation for the shift.

Poland wants a strong compensation package for its industry in exchange for agreeing the 2050 target, premier Mateusz Morawiecki said, whose country overwhelmingly relies on coal for energy.

The transition to a low carbon economy should be socially friendly, the Finnish PM admitted.

One way to secure an agreement is to deal with compensation for the transition within the EU's ling-term budget, where negotiations will also be led by the Finnish diplomacy in the next six months.

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