Finland will make it its mission to turn the EU into a climate hero, its prime minister said, as the country took up the six-month rotating presidency of the European Council on Monday.

“Solving the climate crisis could be Europe’s next heroic act, one that will be admired and praised by future generations” prime minister Antti Rinne told journalists in Brussels on Monday morning.

EU global leadership in climate action will be “a key priority of Finland’s presidency,” Rinne promised. “In the 2020s, the EU will have the chance to fulfil the expectations of its citizens by taking the lead in addressing the major challenges faced by humanity…

“The crucial one is climate change, which is why the time for ‘yes, but’ policies for combating climate change is over: in Finland, in the EU and in the world.”

The country earned praise last month when a newly formed coalition government announced that it would target carbon neutrality by 2035 – one of the world’s most ambitious timelines. Only Norway has announced the earlier target of 2030, but relies heavily on international carbon offsets to meet the goal.

That ambition is reflected at EU level. Together with France and Germany, Finland has been one of the most vocal countries in favour of a 2050 net zero emissions goal. The country is also calling for the bloc to slash emissions 55% from 1990 levels by 2030.

At the last Council meeting, national leaders fell short of consensus on the tougher 2050 target, after Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Estonia blocked a deal.

Polish energy official Tomasz Dabrowski told a conference in London last week the heavy coal user would “probably” sign up to the target, “but we need to know what it will cost and the whole social impact of the transition”.

Finland’s Europe minister, Tytti Tuppurainen, told News Now Finland she was “optimistic” that the four countries would get behind net zero, with financial incentives.

“Probably it needs linkage to the multi-annual budgetary framework, because those regions and countries that are, for good reason, a little bit afraid that their economies are going to be hurt, so if we can find a way to compensate them, it’s easier to find a solution,” Tuppurainen said on Monday.

In addition to the 2050 net zero goal, the Finnish presidency has committed to develop the circular economy and champion a Common Agricultural Policy that can better respond to climate change. It also aims to step up the bloc’s leadership in the UN deal on biodiversity.

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