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Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way

Upscaling ten existing climate solutions could cut emissions from the Baltics, Poland and Ukraine by 13 per cent

Unleashed potential of existing climate solutions

Green to Scale is a concept developed by Sitra, the Finnish Innovation Fund, which conducted the study together with SEI Tallin for the Nordic Council of Ministers. The method was first applied in 2015, in the lead-up to COP 21 in Paris. The idea behind it is to analyse the potential of scaling up existing and proven climate solutions in different parts of the world.

“As the question is not whether to act, but rather, and with much urgency, how to act – sustainable solutions that have already proven efficient are crucial to the transition to a low-carbon society,” says Anna Maria Hill Mikkelsen, Senior Advisor on Environment and Climate at the Nordic Council of Ministers. “Nordic Green to Scale for countries is one way of showcasing viable solutions that not only tackle climate change and improve security of supply, but also provide economic benefits.”

The first Nordic Green to Scale analysis, conducted in 2016, showed that up-scaling 15 Nordic solutions could cut global emissions by around four gigatons, which is equal to the total current emissions of the EU. Nordic Green to Scale for countries takes a more local approach by analysing the potential of ten solutions for five target countries: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine.

“The study highlights the untapped potential of these solutions, both in terms of CO2 reduction and their economic potential,” says Lauri Tammiste, Centre Director of SEI Tallinn.

“Scaling up the ten selected solutions could cut CO2 emissions in these five European countries by around 150 Mt,” says Oras Tynkkynen, Senior Advisor at Sitra. “These reductions would be in addition to the climate measures that the countries have already introduced. To put the figure into perspective, 150 Mt equals the combined emissions from Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland.”

Another way of looking at the potential is to calculate the proportion of the countries’ 2030 emissions that these ten solutions could reduce.

“In Estonia, these solutions could potentially cut close to 40 per cent of the projected emissions in 2030 – that is, if they continue with existing policies without introducing new ones,”  Tynkkynen explains. “That’s a remarkable figure and much more than Estonia is currently expected to achieve under the EU rules and targets.”

"In Estonia, these solutions could potentially cut close to 40 per cent of the projected emissions in 2030 – that is, if they continue with existing policies without introducing new ones"

Oras Tynkkynen
Senior Advisor, Sitra

Large potential in improved energy efficiency and renewables

Energy efficiency in housing and industry are the two categories that represent the largest overall potential to reduce emissions, at 53Mt and 25Mt respectively. Poland, for example, could achieve a reduction of 42Mt through improved energy efficiency in buildings and industry, while Ukraine could achieve a 25Mt reduction through efficiency measures in buildings.

“Some of the countries have implemented policy measures to promote energy efficiency in apartment housing, but the effect is still limited,” says Tammiste. “Energy demand and energy use in buildings is still growing, whereas in Sweden it has decreased. The story is similar when it comes to energy efficiency in industry. If we look at energy consumption in relation to the value added created, the countries’ industry is rather energy intensive.”

“Another interesting set of solutions is renewable energy sources in electricity, heating and transport,” says Tynkkynen. The energy sector represents the second largest emission reduction potential of about 41 Mt, notably from wind and solar power.

In the Baltic countries, wind power stands out as the solution with the biggest potential for emission reductions. The solution would allow Estonia to cut 12 per cent of its emissions by 2030, Latvia 14 per cent and Lithuania 16. Combined, the Baltics could cut their emissions by 14.5Mt by scaling up renewable solutions.

“In 2014, wind power generation was approximately 11TWh in Sweden and 9TWh in Denmark, but only around 1TWh in Estonia, Lithuania and Ukraine,” says Tammiste. “These figures clearly indicate that there’s great potential to increase renewable power generation in these countries.”

Up-scaling would save money over time

One of the main concerns in the climate debate is the cost of the solutions necessary to reach the climate targets of the Paris agreement. After analysing the costs and savings of implementing the ten solutions, Tynkkynen and Tammiste have an uplifting message.

“One of the key findings of the analysis is that scaling up these ten solutions in the five countries would actually give net savings rather than additional cost,  ” says Tammiste.

This derives primarily from energy efficiency in buildings, which would bring total net savings of €2.9 billion in 2030, while energy efficiency measures in industry would save around €500 million. Other solutions, however, come with a cost. Bioenergy for heating would cost €1 billion by 2030, wind power €500 million and solar power €400 million. The outcome is net savings of €1.2 billion for the five countries combined. These calculations do not take into account additional benefits, such as better air quality that reduces healthcare costs.

“One of the key findings of the analysis is that scaling up these ten solutions in the five countries would actually give net savings rather than additional cost”

Lauri Tammiste
Centre Director, SEI Tallinn

Global community must share its solutions

A second component of Nordic Green to Scale for countries is a similar study of two East African countries, Kenya and Ethiopia. The key findings have just been presented at the annual conference on Climate-Resilient Green Economy in Addis Ababa. While the approach is the same, there are some differences between the selected climate solutions.

“Geothermal energy is included in the East African analysis, as the region has one of the best geothermal resources in the world,” says Tynkkynen. “On the other hand, electric cars are only included in our study of the European countries. While electric cars will certainly also be interesting for African countries in the future, they would be too costly to implement at the present time.”

“What we’ve done here is to share Nordic experience in implementing climate solutions, but it would be just as useful to do it the other way around,” he adds. “For instance, Estonia has come far with renewable energy in heating, and Lithuania has one of the highest proportions of electric buses in Europe.”

In addition to the energy solutions, Tammiste also mentions digital innovation, big data and e-governance as Baltic strengths that could be beneficial for the Nordic countries and the international community as new sources of further emission reductions.

“Estonia is currently piloting solutions to innovate public transport services and make them more demand-responsive. This is an example of an area in which the Nordics and Baltics, Poland and Ukraine could very well develop good solutions together.”

Photo 1: Samuel Zeller/Unsplash

Photo 2: Pär Pärsson/Unsplash