SYKE’s Policy Briefs at the core of climate policy

News 2021-10-26 at 15:42

Researched information on climate change should be used to plan fair and efficient climate policy, may that be regionally, nationally, or globally.

This researched information can be found on Finnish Environment’s Policy Briefs that offer a concise summary of a particular issue, policy options for it and recommendations. Multiple of the Policy Briefs deal with the issues of climate change.

Municipalities play a significant role on climate change mitigation

Municipalities are key actors in climate change mitigation, and they have multiple different actions they can take. Two of SYKE’s Policy Briefs, “Sustainable future is built in municipalities” (published only in Finnish) and “Taking a broader view in decisions on land use”, present ways that municipalities can lower emissions. Two examples of the actions are infrastructure planning and citizens’ opportunities.

Municipalities can mitigate climate change by planning to use land efficiently and compactly. Efficient land use is important since shorter distances promote carbon neutrality. Municipalities should coordinate with each other how to use land so that the whole region’s land use is efficient. When planning land use municipalities also need to take into account nature areas, flood risks, buildings’ life cycle emissions and sustainable energy production.

Another notable way to promote carbon neutrality is by supporting citizens’ possibilities to choose sustainable choices in their everyday life. The choice to live sustainably needs to be made as easy as possible. For example, municipalities need to offer possibility for citizens to move without a car, and this is where efficient land use planning comes into the picture.

Nutrition as a way to mitigate climate change

The Policy Brief “Environmental impacts need to be taken into account in nutrition recommendations” suggests, that national nutrition recommendations must include both nutritional and ecological sustainability. This is important since increasing the proportion of vegetables, legumes, and fish in the diet helps to tackle climate change.

The environmental criteria for food must be based on science and open public data. The criteria would create common guidelines for different actors, such as municipalities. Based on the criteria municipalities could set clear responsibility for public procurements and services.

In addition to updating nutritional recommendations, the agricultural subsidy system and environmental regulation need to be updated so that it supports the production of food that is both environmentally and nutritionally sustainable.

Ecological compensation goes hand in hand with climate change mitigation

The Policy Brief “Ecological compensations are worth taking into use” explains the meaning of ecological compensation and why it is important. One of the many reasons why it is important is that it can be a way to mitigate climate change.

With ecological compensation the local damage caused by construction or industry is balanced by improving biodiversity elsewhere. Ecological compensation should be used in situations where damage inflicted on nature by humans cannot be completely avoided. Ecological compensation is never the first option, but it should be used when there is no other way to avoid the harm on nature.

The principle is that the compensation is paid by the one that causes the damage. Now legislation is needed to create rules for the compensation and to keep the compensation practices transparent.

Ecological compensation can and should be used to slow down climate change whenever possible. For example, letting old-growth forests to grow can be a compensatory offset, which benefits both natural diversity and climate. Aging forest offer a home for many endangered species and at the same time the forests store a relatively large amount of carbon thus serving as a carbon sink.

Reducing black carbon emissions is an efficient way to mitigate climate change

The Policy Brief “Curbing black carbon emissions slows warming in the Arctic” has a very clear message: although the most important way to mitigate climate change is controlling greenhouse gas emissions, black carbon emissions must also be reduced. Black carbon is emitted from burning of wood, other biomass and coal by households, road traffic, machinery, industry, and power plants. It is also formed during forest fires and flaring, i.e. burning on unutilized natural gas and oil at oilfields.

The payoff of reducing black carbon is fast unlike with carbon dioxide, since black carbon remains in the atmosphere for only a short period of time. Thus, any measures taken will have a rapid and positive effect. Black carbon emissions can be reduced efficiently by using the best available technical solutions and setting tighter emission restrictions.

Mitigation in a nutshell: 10 examples from SYKEs Policy Briefs

  • Municipalities need to plan land use in climate friendly way
  • Nutrition recommendations must include ecological sustainability
  • Ecological compensations must be planned together with climate change mitigation
  • Black carbon emissions should be lowered for a quick positive impact
  • All economic activities should be based on circular economy
  • States and municipal authorities must set tougher goals for reducing emissions
  • The use of energy should be reduced through taxation
  • Public investments on housing and transport need to be directed towards carbon neutral solutions
  • Companies’ everyday activities must be responsible and transparent
  • Information on companies and their products need to be made available for consumers

Since 2014 SYKE has published Policy Briefs that offer a view on some important environmental topic. The Policy Briefs are always based on research and they are targeted to policy makers and experts.

The examples presented here are just a few examples of climate change mitigation and of the findings of the Policy Briefs. The Policy Briefs in whole can be read down below.

Read the Policy Briefs here: