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Speeding Up Carbon Drawdown by Helping the Inactive Become Active

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How To Pump Up The Volume… of Heat Pumps 

heat pump finland sustainability carbon drawdown renewable energy effective climate action

There’s nothing like an energy crisis to highlight effective climate action, and Finland’s embrace of sustainable, renewable energy heat pumps provides a great case study

This article from the Rapid Transition Alliance on how Finland became an air source heat-pump pin-up is sober, detailed and revealing.

It doesn’t offer a simple, one-size-fits-all solution to weaning ourselves off gas boilers. It acknowledges that different building stocks and retrofitting challenges present different challenges in different countries. It is nuanced, data-driven, and specific.

This analysis of how Finland did it does also provides a useful case study in effective climate action.

Sure, everywhere’s different, but this Finnish example provides a road-map, a procedure, a step-by-step starting-point guide on how to rapidly remove gas boilers, and replace them with renewable energy heat pumps. 

Our politicians spend a lot of time and public money on ‘fact-finding’ trips. What’s the point of studying wheelwrights around the world, before deciding it would be best to re-invent the wheel yourself…

How to reduce carbon – follow the evidence

Spoiler alert – flashy announcements in manifestos, or pre-election press conferences, of far-off ‘targets’ may generate a day or two of ‘positive’ headlines, but they’re not, it turns out, much COP at carbon drawdown. Such grandstanding is as illuminating as a candle in the wind.

The Rapid Transition Alliance, which published this article, takes the kind of evidence-based, sober, analytical approach See Through News is keen to promote.

Without picking a fight, the article addresses all the usual objections propagated by those who, for one reason or another, resist such rapid change.

Once you look past those familiar obfuscations, whatabouteries and we-can’t-possiblies, the solution turns out to be surprisingly straightforward. A bit boring, even.

The Finnish Heat Pump How-To Practical Implementation Blueprint contains no great political theatre. Start by garnering broad support, based on grass roots individuals, then leverage these accumulated changes in individual behaviour to change government regulation.

Significant carbon drawdown impact only occurs once government regulations on heat pumps changed.

This is a story of unspectacular consensus-building to agree a shared goal. Of a progressive ratcheting up of calibrated measures, incremental steps in government regulation, involving co-operation between builders, regulators and lawmakers toward a common goal.

This kind of boring stuff, not the eye-catching numbers and slogans that are carried away by the wind within hours, has made this cold, North European country a remarkably efficient adopter of this basic renewable energy technology. 

The Positive Results of Finland’s Sustainable Energy Regulation

It leaves Finland not invulnerable, but in a much better position than most, to external shocks like President Putin turning off their supply of Russian gas. 

Few predicted the dramatic, almost-worst-case scenario, we’re witnessing in Ukraine. 

It’s strange that it took a bolt-from-the-blue action by a ‘rogue’ politician to provoke the same action that virtually all the world’s climate scientists have been calling for decades now, but so be it. Both routes result in less carbon in our atmosphere.

Finland provides a road-map for other countries wondering – often rhetorically – how on earth they can possibly free themselves from their reliance on gas to keep them warm.  

Many are unmotivated by the concept of carbon drawdown, and we understand why. It’s intimidatingly global, too wonkish, too abstract and too distant a reason to convince us to take immediate, local action.

Sometimes it takes something closer to our daily experience, something in our immediate eye-line, to rouse us from inaction into action.

It’s invidious to try to find any silver linings in such a tragedy as the war in Ukraine, but it has provided us with a more immediate and pragmatic reason to switch off the gas, and pump up the volume…of heat-pumps.


PS: Here’s a graphic from autumn 2022. See how long it takes to find Finland, the European country with the longest Russian border.

Finland europe energy subsidy chart