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Figure 32. Implied carbon tax for different fuels in varying uses

Figure 32. Implied carbon tax for different fuels in varying uses

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Policies to boost potential output growth



123



This fuel is even more carbon intensive than coal and accounted for almost 9 per

cent of carbon-based fuel used in 2001. Currently available EU studies117 suggest

that the net emissions of carbon dioxide from new plants using this fuel source are

7 per cent higher than those from coal and 117 per cent higher than those from

natural gas.118 Such estimates take into account the likely absorption of carbon

dioxide when peat mires are reforested, though these gains would be lower if the

peat mires themselves were regenerated which takes around 2000 years.119 The

electricity co-generated in small-scale peat-fired heating installations receives tax

rebates on the same scale as renewable energy sources. Furthermore, the carbon

tax on peat is only one-fourth of that for coal. Despite current information on the

external costs of generating electricity from peat, the national climate strategy

assesses that further research is needed and supports for the time being the

continued use of peat in heat generation and in co-generation of electricity and

heat, unless its use threatens the competitiveness of wood in energy production.

Peat is a competitive source of fuel in certain areas of Finland,120 but in other parts

of the country it requires a substantial tax rebate to be economic in new smallscale plants, though some combustion efficiency gains may be possible with the

co-firing of wood-based fuels and peat. Eliminating the support for peat used in

heat and electricity production would, assessed in the context of the current

methodology, lower environmental costs.

The reluctance to change policy is related to perceived high social costs.

Only a small fraction of the total Finnish labour force is engaged in peat production, but this is often located in remote areas and forms the economic base for

whole communities. Reducing public support for such activity could thus risk

upsetting the current regional settlement pattern. If the objective is to preserve

employment in these regions then it would be better to move away from supporting peat production to providing financial assistance for start-ups in the regions in

question. Security of supply is also advanced as reason for keeping the capacity to

use peat for cogeneration of electricity and heat.

Conclusions

The energy-intensive nature of the economy has resulted in high and rapidly growing greenhouse gas emissions that the government is committed to curb.

The decision to allow the construction of a new nuclear power plant will reduce

the expected overrun of the Finnish Kyoto emission target by half. The energy

conservation and renewable energy policies designed to achieve the remaining

reductions need to be implemented as cost effectively as possible. Finland was a

pioneer in taxing carbon and has gained considerable experience in developing

tax instruments for curbing emissions. However, for competitiveness reasons, it

was faced with the need to transform the former energy tax system, which from the

environmental point of view was well grounded, to one similar to that adopted in



© OECD 2003



OECD Economic Surveys: Finland



124



other countries. It continues to exempt peat from such taxes, so raising the cost of

adjustment elsewhere in the economy. The difficulties faced in implementing this

approach emphasise clearly the need for concerted action especially in the case

of the sectors operating in international commodity markets. In this light, Finland

may benefit from participating in the EU-wide permit-trading scheme and in such

a way may further increase the cost effectiveness of emission abatement policies.

There is nonetheless scope for better equalisation of carbon taxation across sectors by reducing the extent of discrimination. Notably the favourable treatment

accorded to peat needs to be reassessed, taking into account the question of

whether the long-term benefits from reforesting peat mires are significant. Any

undesirable consequences for the regional settlement patterns should be

addressed by targeted policies, such as support for new start-ups.

Air pollution

Main issues

Air pollution can have serious adverse effects on health, and the associated

costs may be high for society. For the European Union as a whole, it is estimated

that these welfare costs were as high as 3 to 3½ per cent of GDP in the mid-1990s.121

In recognition of such adverse effects, governments throughout the OECD have

established ambitious abatement targets for air pollutants both on a unilateral and

multilateral basis. In the case of Finland, the main issue is to achieve such reductions without imposing unnecessary costs on producers and consumers.

Performance

Air pollution has been reduced in the past decade. Sulphur dioxide discharges fell dramatically during the 1990s. As other countries have achieved similar results, the extent of cross-border pollution affecting Finland has also been

reduced. These two factors have led to the proportion of the total land area suffering from acidity levels above the critical load falling from 14 per cent in 1990 to

5 per cent by 1995. Moreover, ambient concentrations of sulphur dioxide were well

below the World Health Organisation (WHO) and EU guidelines, and significantly

lower than in most other OECD countries in the same year (Figure 33). On the

other hand, emissions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

have fallen by less than those of sulphur dioxide, with the excess over the EU

average of emissions (per unit of GDP) growing (Table 20). There has been little

improvement in ambient concentrations for these two pollutants. In addition,

emissions of particulate matter have not shown signs of trending down in all urban

areas and such pollution remains a cause for concern in some localities. However,

due to technological changes and policies already in place, the future concentrations

of nitrogen dioxide, VOCs and particulate matter are likely to fall considerably.



© OECD 2003



Policies to boost potential output growth



Figure 33.



125



Air pollutant concentrations in major cities of OECD countries

Micrograms per cubic metre, 1995



35

30



35

Sulphur dioxide1



30



250



GRC



ITA



AUS



USA



IRL



GBR



CAN



CHE



FIN



BEL



0



DEU



5



0



FRA



5

AUT



10



ESP



10



NLD



15



PRT



15



NOR



20



DNK



20



SWE



25



NZL



25



250



Nitrogen dioxide



200



200



150



150



100



100

EU guideline ²



ITA



USA



GBR



GRC



NLD



FRA



DNK



PRT



BEL



NOR



CAN



AUT



CHE



FIN



AUS



SWE



0



DEU



0



ESP



50



NZL



50



1. The World Health Organisation guideline mean value for one year is 50.

2. Median of annual data of one hour values for concentrations.

Source: World Bank.



Policy

Within the framework of the UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution and the generally more demanding European Commission

directives, the Finnish authorities are committed to achieve a reduction in emissions of various air pollutants by 2010 (Table 21). For sulphur dioxide, the sharp

reductions in the 1990s have already pushed emission levels well below the target. For some other gases, substantial additional emission cuts will be required to

reach the limit. Indeed, abatement efforts in the coming years will have to be

intensified for nitrogen oxides, VOCs and ammonia to achieve EU targets. Given

projected emission trends, existing policies and new policies envisaged in the Air



© OECD 2003



126



Table 20.



Performance indicators: air pollution



Change in emissions in % of GDP1 per year,

1990-99



Level of emissions in grams per dollar of GDP,1

1999



Improvement in productive

efficiency, 1990-99



Nitrogen

dioxide



Volatile

organic

compounds



Sulphur

dioxide



Nitrogen

dioxide



Volatile

organic

compounds



Sulphur

dioxide

per unit of

electricity

output



Nitrogen

dioxide

per vehicle



Finland



–13.0



–3.8



–4.1



0.7



2.1



1.4



–65.3



–28.7



Denmark

Norway

Sweden



–14.2

–9.7

–8.3



–4.9

–2.8

–4.3



–5.2

–1.8

–3.9



0.4

0.2

0.3



1.6

2.0

1.3



1.0

3.0

2.1



–79.8

..

–26.0



–38.9

..

..



Austria

Belgium

France

Germany

Greece



–10.2

–9.2

–8.3

–20.1

–1.4



–3.5

–3.6

–3.8

–7.1

–0.3



–6.5

–4.8

–5.1

–8.8

–0.2



0.2

0.8

0.5

0.4

3.6



0.9

1.2

1.2

0.9

2.5



1.2

1.1

1.4

0.9

2.6



–77.2

–64.4

–52.0

–85.2

–4.6



–32.5

–22.6

–37.8

–43.7

–22.3



Ireland

Italy

Netherlands

Portugal

Spain

United Kingdom



–8.1

–7.6

–10.1

–2.1

–5.8

–13.9



–6.3

–4.3

–6.5

–0.9

–2.1

–7.9



–7.9

–4.4

–8.8

0.1

–3.5

–6.6



1.7

0.8

0.3

2.4

2.2

1.0



1.3

1.2

1.1

2.3

1.7

1.3



1.0

1.4

0.7

3.1

3.6

1.4



–35.8

–52.8

–50.2

–17.7

–39.4

–72.8



–19.0

–31.3

..

..

–14.4

–51.0



–5.3

–6.0

–5.5



–2.8

–5.4

–2.5



–2.9

–6.3

–4.7



3.2

0.1

2.0



2.6

0.5

2.7



3.5

0.9

1.9



..

..

..



..

..

..



–11.1

–10.1

–7.3



–5.0

–4.7

–3.2



–5.3

–5.0

–4.6



0.8

1.2

1.6



1.2

1.4

2.0



1.5

1.5

1.8



..

..

..



..

..

..



Canada

Switzerland

United States

European Union

OECD Europe

OECD



© OECD 2003



1. Using 1995 purchasing power parities.

Source: Cooperative Programme for Monitoring and Evaluating of Long-Range Transmission of Air Pollutants in Europe (EMEP); World Health Organisation and OECD.



OECD Economic Surveys: Finland



Sulphur

dioxide



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