Finland climate resilience policy indicator

Source(s)
International Energy Agency

Country summary

  • Finland’s average annual temperature has risen more than 1°C in the past 150 years and is projected to continue increasing more rapidly than the global average in upcoming decades. Warmer temperatures are likely to reduce energy demand for heating.
  • Although precipitation has been highly variable, making it difficult to analyse long-term trends, climate projections indicate an increasing precipitation trend. Heavy precipitation events could become more frequent in the summer, resulting in more flooding, while winters could be cloudier. These changes may affect climate-sensitive renewable energy sources, for instance by making greater hydropower generation possible and reducing solar energy potential in the winter. 
  • Based on extensive research, Finland has identified measures to adapt to climate change in the energy sector. Its Seventh National Communication under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change describes ongoing and planned adaptation measures such as dam safety improvement through flood management, and the construction of intelligent electricity networks. The Electricity Market Act ensures that distribution network design, construction and maintenance are resilient to extreme weather events. Climate resilience is also referred to in national energy policies, establishing links between energy and climate plans.

Climate hazard assessment

Temperature

Finland’s average annual temperature increased more than 1°C in the past 150 years, with seasonal variations. The fastest temperature increase was in in the spring, followed by the winter, while summer and autumn temperatures rose at a slower rate. Long-term trends also show high interannual variability, with extremely cold winters in 1985 and 1987 and mild winters from the 1990s onwards. Finland’s temperature rise (0.0474°C per year) in the past two decades (2000-2020) significantly exceeded the global average (0.0313°C per year). 

Furthermore, compared with 1981-2010, its mean annual temperature is expected to be up to 3.5°C1 higher by mid-century and up to 5.6°C warmer1 by the end of the century – surpassing global average warming by 1.5 to 2 times. Temperatures increases will be more notable in the winter than the summer, and cold spells are likely to become less common while heatwaves are both more frequent and longer

Rising temperatures are reducing heating degree days (HDDs) while cooling degree days (CDDs) increase only slightly. Indeed, Finnish winters have undergone more significant changes in recent decades than other seasons, becoming two weeks shorter in 1991-2020 than in 1981-2010 on the south and west coasts. This shortening of the winter is likely to decrease energy consumption for heating.

Precipitation 

The high interannual variability of Finland’s precipitation patterns makes it difficult to detect long-term trends. Northern Finland is drier in general than southern and eastern regions, which experience higher average precipitation. Compared with 1961-1990, there was roughly 9% more precipitation in 1991-2020, and growth has been strongest in the winter months from December to February and in the north of the country. 

Climate projections anticipate increasing precipitation, with a greater jump in winter than summer. Less snow and more rainfall are expected, particularly over the southern part of the country. These seasonal trends are consistent with all greenhouse gas emissions scenarios, while a higher greenhouse gas concentration2 may lead to a further increase. Heavy precipitation events are expected to become more frequent in the summer and could lead to more frequent flooding.

Finland’s latest National Communication under the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change says that the country’s rising reliance on renewable energy may increase the need for climate resilience, as renewable energy sources are more exposed to the effects of climate change than conventional sources are. For instance, less solar radiation is projected as winters become cloudier, effectively reducing solar energy potential in the winter, while greater precipitation is likely to drive up production from hydropower plants, which have a central role as a balancing power source.

Tropical cyclones and storms

Although Finland’s average wind speed is likely to remain largely unchanged in the future, the frequency of strong winds is projected to increase, especially in coastal regions. Severe winter and summer storms can negatively impact the energy system, with damage to electricity lines, poles and transformers causingpower outages.3 Indeed, long-lasting power outages in the last few years have brought the operational security of Finland’s power supply networks into public discussion. For instance, storms left 94 000 homes without electricity in 2019, and 60 000 dwellings were affected in 2020. 

Policy readiness for climate resilience

Based on extensive research, Finland has identified its vulnerabilities and measures to tackle climate change in the energy sector. In fact, its work on adaptation measures dates back to 2005, when the country’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry published Europe’s first National Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change (NAS). NAS development was based on extensive research programmes, such as SILMU (1990-1995), FIGARE (1999-2003), FINADAPT (2004-2005) and the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment

The NAS includes comprehensive research and analysis of climate change impacts on the energy sector, including considerations for Finland’s low-carbon energy transition. It also details possible adaptation measures to be taken by a variety of stakeholders, specifically targeting energy sector climate adaptation and resilience.

The current national adaptation policy framework, outlined in a government resolution on the National Climate Change Adaptation Plan 2022 (NAP, adopted in November 2014), demonstrates Finland’s commitment to climate resilience, with general objectives such as implementing adaptation actions by integrating them into each sector’s planning, decision-making and activities. 

Like the NAS, NAP development was based extensively on the results of national research programmes, namely ISTO (Finland’s Climate Change Adaptation Research Programme, 2006-2010), VACCIA (Vulnerability Assessment of Ecosystem Services for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation, 2009-2011), MIL(Functioning of Forest Ecosystems and Use of Forest Resources in Changing Climate, 2007-2012) and some projects of FICCA (Finnish Research Programme on Climate Change, 2011-2014). 

Commissioned reports on the adverse impacts of climate change and the vulnerability of sectors and resilience also informed NAP elaboration. Studies include the 2012 report “How to adapt to inevitable climate change – A synthesis of Finnish research on adaptation in different sectors” as well as midterm and final evaluations of the NAS published in 2009 and 2013, respectively. In particular, the assessment of adverse effects of climate change and industry vulnerability (2013) has a section dedicated to energy that identifies 12 adverse impacts of climate change, including energy production and distribution disturbances; flood risks for nuclear power plants; lower solar power generation; and greater cooling needs.

Research projects and tools also supports the implementation of the NAP. The ELASTINEN (2016) and SIETO (2017-2018) projects provided information on managing climate-related risks, including cross-border impacts of climate change on Finland. Climateguide.fi allows stakeholders to access spatially disaggregated information on climate projections and projected impacts. 

Meanwhile, Finland’s 2017 Seventh National Communication under the UNFCCCincludes adaptation measures for various economic sectors and infrastructure, including energy. It proposes actions such as dam safety improvement through flood management, and the construction of intelligent electricity networks that would function as service platforms in the transition towards a more decentralised electricity system.

The Seventh National Communication also explains how the Electricity Market Act’s regulations improve energy supply security in the cases of network faults. According to the act, the distribution network must be designed, built and maintained to be resilient to storm and snow damage, limiting the duration of electricity supply interruptions to up to 6 hours in planned areas and 36 hours in all other regions. Additionally, hydropower plant turbines have been scaled to cope more effectively with expected changes in waterflow conditions.

Other national energy policies also establish links between energy and climate adaptation plans. Finland’s National Energy and Climate Strategy (2013) and the Government report on the National Energy and Climate Strategy for 2030 (2017) have subsections on climate change adaptation, with reference to the NAP. Furthermore, the National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) cites the NAP and discusses the need for greater electricity distribution network resilience to extreme weather conditions. 

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