Finnish environment spending to be cut

Budget for 2000 includes integrated financial review of natural resources, environmental quality

Finnish government spending on the environment is due to fall 12% next year to euros 624m (FM3.7bn), according to national budget figures for 2000 released this week. The reduction is largely due to cuts of about 25% in environmental subsidies for agriculture as Finland adjusts agricultural funding to meet the requirements of Agenda 2000. But spending on environmental protection and nature conservation is also down because of a reduced need for funds for land purchases. The highest increase, of euros 5.05m is in environmental administration costs.

About 13% of all government income from taxation is related to the environment - including all forms of energy and motor vehicle taxation. Less than 2% of total government spending in 2000 will be targeted directly on environmental protection.

The budget incorporates a financial review of natural resources and the environment in Finland for 1999 drafted by a working group including representatives from the environment, finance, agriculture, transport and trade and industry ministries. This is the sixth such report to be incorporated into the national budget under a pilot scheme for the integration of environmental budgeting in different sectors, a practice which should become more widespread in EU countries after the Helsinki summit in December.

The review is generally positive on emissions, boasting of reduced loads of carbon dioxide and sulphur oxides, though nitrogen oxides remain close to the 1997 level. The 1998 figure for carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels and peat was down compared with 1997, but still up 5.5% on 1990.

The review stresses the need for international cooperation, pointing out that only 12% of the sulphur load and 20% of the nitrogen in Finland comes from domestic sources, while a startling 70-80 % of pollution in the Gulf of Finland originates from the St Petersburg area of Russia.

Future Finnish environmental spending may well increasingly target projects in the Baltic Countries and Russia, as such investment often serves to alleviate pollution in Finland much more than spending on domestic projects.

Finland's record of the use of energy from biomass and the widespread cogeneration of electricity and heat for industry and district heating schemes is also included in the review, which describes it as "eco-efficient". Some 90% of households in the capital Helsinki are connected to district heating, for example.

Follow Up:
Finnish environment ministry, tel: +358 9 19911.

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