Finland wants EU to agree plan for net-zero carbon footprint

FILE PHOTO: Activists protest against the carbon dioxide emissions trading in front of the World Congress Centre Bonn, the site of the COP23 U.N. Climate Change Conference, in Bonn, Germany, November 17, 2017. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Finland wants the European Union to agree to achieve a net-zero carbon footprint by 2050, Environment Minister Kimmo Tiilikainen said on Monday as the bloc’s ministers met to discuss a climate protection plan.

Finland, which will take over the EU’s rotating presidency in the second half of 2019, has called for leadership in combating climate change after U.S. President Donald Trump decided to pull out of the global Paris deal.

The EU executive proposed last year that the bloc aims for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

“The European Union must align our climate and energy policy according to the 1.5 degree target. That means that the EU must achieve carbon neutrality by 2050,” Tiilikainen told reporters.

“Finland is prepared to take this work forward during our presidency and we are aiming to reach the Council conclusions during that time.”

The idea is backed by countries like Sweden, France and the Netherlands but opposed by other EU states, including Germany and Poland, which want to protect high-employment industries like car manufacturing and coal mining.

EU national leaders will discuss the issue later this month at a summit in Brussels following emotional protests by schoolchildren in Europe demanding decisive action to combat climate change.

Environmental group Greenpeace called for strong leadership.

“Governments have nowhere to hide,” Greenpeace said. “To avert a total climate breakdown, ministers need to show that they’re prepared to do a lot more, a lot sooner to ditch fossil fuels and transform energy, transport and farming.”

Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, editing by Ed Osmond