Krista Mikkonen: EU countries “moving towards” 2050 carbon neutral goal

Four countries including Estonia have been reluctant to sign up to a mid-century target of having net zero emissions.

Environment and Climate Chance Minister Krista Mikkonen (C) gives a press conference in Helsinki, 11th July 2019 / Credit: Viivi Myllylä, VNK

Environment and Climate Change Minister Krista Mikkonen (Green) thinks that all of the EU countries can find common ground to agree a 2050 deadline to become carbon neutral.

Mikkonen is chairing a meeting of environment ministers from around Europe at Finlandia Hall on Thursday and Friday, and after the first day of talks she struck an optimistic note on reaching an agreement.

“Europe will only thrive in the future if we find a way to solve these challenges […] what we need is an ambitious long-term strategy and a vision of the future to guide our decisions in the coming years, and our way towards a carbon neutral society. It’s also in our economic interests to pursue these” she said.

One of Finland’s top policy priorities during its six-month Presidency of the European Council is to get an agreement on going carbon neutral. So far, getting all of the EU countries on board has proved difficult with four countries, including Estonia, not willing to sign up to the 2050 deadline – which many campaigners say is rather soft in the first place.

“I think it’s clear we are indeed moving towards agreement on net zero emissions target by 2050 by the end of the year” Mikkonen told reporters at Finlandia Hall on Thursday afternoon.

It’s thought that those countries holding out on the 2050 date are likely to be offered financial incentives. For example in Estonia’s case, there are concerns domestically on the impact of being carbon neutral for the country’s oil shale mining industry, and shale oil refineries.

An economic package to offset those anticipated costs could sway the Estonians into agreeing to be carbon neutral by 2050.

In any case the EU has committed to reducing emissions by at least 40% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.

“The EU commitment is a very ambitious contribution among industrial economies. The EU is leading the way on implementation. The EU already has in place an ambitious, binding, legal framework to deliver on its commitments” says Mikkonen.