Agriculture is the main driver of global deforestation and land conversion, and food systems account for more than a third of global greenhouse gas emissions, making it a major contributor to climate change. A new report by EASAC provides evidence that a transformation to regenerative agriculture holds promising keys to reducing climate risks while providing the growing world population with food and enhancing biodiversity.

EASAC report: Regenerative agriculture in Europe

“Transforming agriculture is the planet’s greatest untapped treasure for coping with the climate crisis. Today’s large-scale conventional agriculture has huge negative impact on soil. Soil erosion, the loss of flora and fauna and thereby nutrients in soils, has become a major factor in Europe,” explains Prof. Thomas Elmqvist, one of the lead authors of EASAC’s first-time scientific analysis of the potential of regenerative agriculture. The report shows that restoring biodiversity in soils, particularly in grasslands can dramatically increase their capacity to capture and store carbon.

“Sawing off the branch we’re sitting on”

While being responsible for a third of global carbon emissions, agriculture is extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change, such as shifts in temperature and rainfall. More and more farmers, and particularly the smallholders that produce about a third of the world’s food, are struggling with harvest and livestock losses while trying to adapt to the increasingly irregular weather conditions caused by a changing climate. “We are literally sawing the branch that we are sitting on,” says Orsolya Valkó of Hungary’s Institute of Ecology and Botany.

Need to protect scale of food production

“There seems to be a belief that regenerative agriculture can only be applied at small scale, and that making any changes to current industrial farming practices will make it impossible to feed a growing world population”, explains Prof. Thomas Elmqvist. “But the opposite is true: we have maybe a decade for a massive transformation. We need to get industrial farmers on board and take a landscape perspective to reach the goals. Ultimately, we can only protect the scale of food production by moving away from only emphasizing quantity of agricultural production to more quality and nutritional value of agricultural products.”

No contradiction to modern plant and animal breeding technologies

EASAC’s results demonstrate that many of the analyzed practices show synergies between carbon capture and storage and enhancing biodiversity, while not having large negative effects on food production in the long term. The scientists underline that regenerative agriculture does not contradict the use of modern plant and animal breeding technology, tilling, use of mineral fertilizer or pesticides. Instead, it aims for a limited, more targeted use. The use of chemical pesticides, for example, can be reduced by using biological alternatives, employing gene-edited crops that are pathogen-resistant, or even introduction of predators.

Most potent carbon capture storage on the planet

Regenerative agriculture can take large amounts of CO2 out of the atmosphere and tie it back into the soil. “We are literally standing on the largest and most potent carbon capture storage of the planet,” Orsolya Valkó says. “Many field tests show how high the soil’s storage performance is. If we want not only to preserve biodiversity, expand food production and at the same time fight climate change, there is no alternative to regenerative agriculture!”

Insufficient implementation of EU’s Biodiversity and Farm-to-Fork Strategies

EASAC recommends that regenerative agriculture should be prioritized by Member States when implementing the new Common Agricultural Policy. This includes more diversification within and among crops, introduction of permanent and perennial crops, expanded agroforestry and intercropping, keeping green plant cover on all farm fields during all seasons, and reduced tillage.

EU and national governments must sharpen their instruments

The report welcomes the European Union’s Biodiversity and Farm-to-Fork Strategies as steps in the right direction but underlines that governments have done little so far to implement them. “We need sharp policies and sharp economic instruments,” says Elmqvist. “Targeting the farm scale is insufficient. Financial schemes should also benefit communities and associations of farmers managing landscapes in a coordinated way.”


European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC) is a co-operative organisation for European science academies. The Council of Finnish Academies is a national member of EASAC.

Russia’s attack against Ukraine has led to an exceptionally widespread crisis on independent academic research in Europe. Human Rights Committee of the Council of Finnish Academies has made the following recommendations on organising research and collaboration during times of crisis for universities and research institutions. Their purpose is to ensure that Finnish universities and research institutions work in conjunction with their employees and research affiliates.

Ethical principles

The Human Rights Committee emphasises honouring the ethical principles of science during times of crisis and in relation to authoritative states. These include

  • the autonomy of science and research, including the freedom to choose the subject matter, angle, and method of implementation
  • the internationality of science and research
  • freedom of speech and
  • honouring human rights.

Legislation regarding universities

According to the Section 2 of the Universities Act, it is the universities’ mission to promote both independent academic research and artistic education, provide the highest level of research-based tuition, and to prepare their students to serve both their country as well as humanity at large. In carrying out their mission, the universities shall promote lifelong learning, interact with the surrounding society, and promote the social impact of university research findings and artistic activities. When it comes to research, ensuring the high international standards and adherence to the ethical principles and good scientific conduct is expected. Section 6 of the Universities Act also stipulates that universities enjoy freedom of research, art, and education.

Viewpoints on collaboration with countries and organisations

In the wake of Russia’s attack against Ukraine, The Ministry of Education and Culture has made a recommendation that Finnish universities cease all academic and scientific collaboration with their Russian associate organisations from 9.3.2022 onwards. The Human Rights Committee approves of the recommendation due to its intention to support Ukraine, while emphasising the notion that sanctions targeted towards countries, institutions, and organisations don’t necessarily require discontinuation of collaborative research between individuals. It is clear that actions based on the policies outlined by the Ministry of Education and Culture should be targeted towards supporting Ukraine, not against independent Russian or Belarussian researchers or students.

While applying these recommendations, universities and research institutes should avoid making categorical decisions with possible unintentional consequences. As befits their status as scientific organisations, universities should base their restrictive decisions on the best available data and expertise regarding the human rights situation and scientific field of the area in question. Utilising the knowledge regarding a specific country or a region ensures that the sanctions won’t cause harm to unintended groups of citizens, or system-critical research fields.

How authoritative states might be able to utilise these sanctions to silence the criticism within the country, increase the amount of oppression towards minorities and to wage information warfare, should also factor in the decisions made by universities.

Categorical decisions made by individual universities can also have an adverse effect on researchers working in Finnish universities and research institutions, as well as funding granted for their research projects. This in turn might have a long-term negative impact on the job- and career opportunities of these researchers. As employers, universities and research facilities should eschew any overreactions that might violate the autonomy of research. Researchers suffering from sanctions imposed by Finnish universities and research facilities should be offered a chance to re-negotiate the funding for their research projects if necessary.

During times of crisis, we recommend abstaining from dual-use research as well as research that might benefit the economic life of a country under sanctions.

All crises end someday. Earlier decisions should be re-evaluated during changing situations. It’s also worth remembering that all rebuilding-enabling scientific connections have not been completely severed during the crisis.

Viewpoints on collaboration with individuals

The Human Rights Committee is of the opinion that collaboration with individuals can in many cases be continued or even reinforced during times of crisis. International networks and collaboration can prove invaluable to the researchers operating in totalitarian states and in countries that are undergoing a crisis. They can also act as a deciding factor in whether their critical work is allowed to continue at all.

The ability of universities operating in totalitarian states to stand against their government’s decisions and regulations is limited. Also, researchers and teachers working in these countries should not be expected to express opinions that might pose a threat to their life, freedom, or research, nor should this act as a condition for continued collaboration.

The nationality or residency of an individual researcher should not be used as the sole reason for terminating collaborative research. Recommendations made with sanctions in mind should not lead to discrimination against a person.

When universities and research institutes decide on what kind of collaborative research can still be continued, the responsibility for case-by-case decisions should be distributed between individual researchers and leaders of research teams and projects. After all, they are the foremost experts in their respective fields of research. Universities should also provide them with more information and understanding regarding the human rights situation of countries that are undergoing crisis, if necessary. This way they can be assured of the fact that there are ethical reasons behind the continued collaboration.

What universities, research teams and individual researchers can do in crisis situations

Russia’s attack against Ukraine has brought some factors into public knowledge that have already been regrettably familiar to the world’s scientific community. These include the status of individual academic research under authoritative governance, prerequisite of operations for universities in countries under attack or occupation, and as a result of this, the vulnerable position of researchers who have been forced to leave their homes. The Human Rights Committee has compiled some ways in which the Finnish research community could lend its support to researchers who find themselves in a dire situation. These ways help with the intention to support Ukraine and its people through university education and research collaboration as well.

  • Universities can lend their support to other universities that have been forced to cease their operations due to being caught in the middle of war of aggression. This support could take the form of collaborative research or coordinated teaching, as an example.
  • Universities can lend their support to other universities that have been forced to move their operations to another country.
  • Universities and research organisations (from now on, universities) can grant double affiliations to researchers who are in danger. This allows for researchers and teachers who find themselves in need of help due to human right violations to seek assistance from Finnish actors and the Finnish government as well.
  • Universities can fund the Scholars at Risk network’s operations.
  • Research teams and individual researchers can, by their own discretion and for good reasons, carry on with collaborative research with their co-researchers, as long as their research supports individual science.
  • Research teams and individual researchers can, by their own discretion and for good reasons, send invitations for others to attend researcher meetings and conferences without affiliations. In this case, it is important to arrange their participation without the need for their employer to cover the resulting expenses.
  • Research teams and individual researchers can, by their own discretion, look for ways to maintain research intended to strengthen and uphold civil society in collaboration with opinionated researchers operating in countries in crisis.
  • The safety of researchers operating in authoritative states must take priority in all actions.



The Human Rights Committee of the Council of Finnish Academies

Helsinki 31.3.2022



Additional information:

Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee of the Council of Finnish Academies, professor Liisa Laakso,

Science Secretary Veera Launis,

From the left: Professor Liisa Laakso, Permanent Secretary Anita Lehikoinen, Professor Elina Vuola, Professor Risto Pelkonen, Member of Parliament Mari Holopainen and artist Pavel Rotts. (Photo: Nina Rapelo)


The awardee of the Finnish Science Academies’ Risto Pelkonen Human Rights Award was published on World Press Freedom Day, 3 May, in Think Corner, Helsinki. The recipient is Scholars at Risk Finland (SARF), which is a national section of the international Scholars at Risk (SAR). Its mission is to protect scholars and promote academic freedom. The chair of SARF, professor Elina Vuola, University of Helsinki, received the award.

The Award is granted for active efforts in promoting human rights in academic communities. “By taking part in SAR network and providing for scholars at risk, universities show that they take responsibility for human rights on a global level. This is a necessity for the recur of science”, the Chair of the Award Committee, professor Liisa Laakso explained.

The award consisted of a video installation Climbing a memory by Pavel Rotts, Academy of Fine Arts of Uniarts Helsinki. In his work, Rotts explored collective and personal memories, historical trauma and the legacy of the Soviet system in contemporary culture.

Professor, archiatre Risto Pelkonen expressed happiness for the awardee, but also “confusion and sorrow in the face of current tragic world events.” Pelkonen is one of the founding members of Human Rights Committee of the Council of Finnish Academies.

The panel discussion, moderated by Emilia Palonen (University of Helsinki), related to the current political and humanitarian crisis in Europe and its effects to the global science community. Despite of the gravity of the topic, panelists – Kalle Korhonen (Kone Foundation), Siarhei Liubimau (European Humanities University), Olena Maslyukivska (University of Vaasa) and Margarita Zavadskaja (Aleksanteri Institute) – found some hope in having the possibility to sit in the same room and discussing about it.

“Scientific and artistic processes require courage, and courage we must be able to protect”, crystallized Permanent Secretary Anita Lehikoinen, Ministry of Culture and Education, in her speech.

Watch the full event Global Science Community – risks and responsibilities (2 hours, the panel discussion starting at 45′): the event recording

The programme of the event: programme


Text by Veera Launis

Finnish Science Academies’ Risto Pelkonen Human Rights Award can be granted for active efforts in promoting human rights in academic communities. The award is granted in collaboration with Academy of Fine Arts of Uniarts Helsinki.

The criteria for the award:

-The award can be granted to a person, an organisation, or a community for active efforts in promoting freedom of science, academic freedom or human rights of academics.

-The awarded person/organisation/community can operate locally or internationally, within or outside the academic community.

-The activity can relate to fostering of human rights (such as freedom of speech) of academics or ensuring the foundations and possibilities for diversified academic work and scientific processes;

-the activity can relate to immediate intervening in human rights violations of academics or fighting against discrimination in its many forms;

-The activity can relate to objecting to hate speech, stigmatising of academics, or demeaning of scientific knowledge or communities.


The Human Rights Committee of the Council of Finnish Academies calls for nominations for the 2022 Awardee. Please submit the nominations with supporting statements to by 31 January 2022.

Photo: EASAC

The recent IPCC Report confirms that global warming is getting faster and faster. The impact is playing in real time as we watch villages flood and forests burn. Meanwhile the hidden crisis of biodiversity loss continues with the loss of forests to land clearance, exacerbated by the fires. As the Climate and Biodiversity Crises potentiate each other, EASAC’s new Commentary adds the most recent data to inform both the UN Glasgow Climate Summit and the Biodiversity Summit in China this autumn, with a focus on 16 areas requiring urgent action to shield humanity from the worst.

The Commentary’s summary of EASAC’s ten years of scientific analysis covering environmental, energy and biosciences is set against the scary backdrop of an inexorable increase in temperature and humidity expanding in some areas to levels where it is difficult or impossible for humans or the crops and livestock they need to survive. Adding science too recent to have been included in the IPCC Report, Europe’s Science Academies urge governments to treat the Climate and Biodiversity Crises as one, and as equally urgent.

Climate and Biodiversity Crises to be treated as one

“This summer’s rollercoaster of extreme temperatures, dryness, flash floods and wildfires has been bad, but probably far better than what we may see in the future,” explains Prof. Michael Norton, EASAC’s Environment Programme Director. “Biodiversity loss and dangerous Climate Change potentiate each other in their disastrous consequences. It’s a vicious circle not only leading to extreme weather but also collapsing food systems, and increasing risks of dangerous pathogens, zoonoses and other health impacts.”

The Commentary illustrates the multiple crises interactions: replacing tropical forests with agriculture reduces biodiversity at the same time as releasing stored carbon, reducing carbon uptake in the land and increasing emissions of other greenhouse gases (GHGs). Warming temperatures and associated changes to precipitation reduce agricultural productivity as well as moving species outside their habitable range, in some cases driving them to extinction. Warming and acidifying oceans alongside weakened circulation reduce the oceans’ capacity to absorb and remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, while shifting or degrading ecosystems.

Exit from the road to our own destruction

But the scientists also see opportunities: conserving, managing and restoring ecosystems for example can mitigate climate change and enable adaptation to its impacts while also enhancing biodiversity. “These challenges do have solutions but so far both the Climate Change and the Biodiversity Conventions separately have lacked the political will to implement them, or policy-makers have taken easy ways out without properly considering the consequences,” says Norton “The classic example being the failure to properly assess climate impacts of burning trees for electricity before allocating billions in subsidies. The two meetings in autumn need to map an exit from the current road that leads to our own destruction.”

Based on EASAC’s past work, the Commentary includes a list of 16 fields for action where governments should already have done more. They straddle climate change, the role of biomass energy, greenhouse gas emissions from different oil feedstocks, policies towards slashing emissions in transport, buildings and infrastructure, and the interactions between climate change and human health.

Relying on the GDP-based system not going to work

Systemic issues such as the barriers to the transformative changes required to tackle the Climate and Biodiversity Crisis are also addressed. “Relying on the current system to deliver the necessary reductions is not going to work”, says Norton. “The GDP-based economic system in which fossil fuel, food and agricultural interests are driving up CO2-levels, deforestation, land clearing and over-fishing is no longer fit for purpose if atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases must be cut in as short a period as possible.” The scientists make clear that governments need to push the reset button. If humanity wants to stop climate change and preserve the biodiversity that it needs for survival, it must change the economic system to one that rewards and incentivises sustainable choices and behaviour.

Focus on tipping points distracting from seriousness of underlying linear trends

Ever since the Paris Climate Summit in 2015, there has been much focus on tipping points. But according to EASAC, catastrophically disrupting trends are proceeding as gradual incremental changes as well. “The focus on tipping points creates an image of relay points up to which climate change can be seen as ‘safe’. However, not only do different tipping points interact with each other and increase the dangers, but the underlying linear trends such as temperature and humidity are serious in their own right,” Norton explains.

Chance for coordinated, bold and transformative action

“As parents and grand-parents we are as terrified as everyone else by what we see coming. But as scientists we know that there are ways to mitigate the worst and adapt. But only if governments in Europe and worldwide take responsibility and show leadership now”, says Lars Walloe, Chair of EASAC’s Environment Programme.

With the closely related policy agendas of the Climate Summit and the Biodiversity Summit, negotiators have the opportunity to take coordinated, bold and transformative action to deliver a new, more integrated and coherent framework for addressing biodiversity loss and climate change together. The urgency is such that both need to work together now, take advantage of the many potential synergies between climate change and biodiversity policies – such as massive ecosystem restoration – and change humanity’s course towards a sustainable future.

Commentary: Key Messages from European Science Academies for UNFCCC COP26 and CBD COP15


European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC) is a co-operative body for science academies in Europe. The Council of Finnish Academies is a national member of EASAC.

There are many possible pathways towards a carbon-neutral future — and achieving it by 2050 is possible but requires urgent action. This is the conclusion of a group of top scientists tasked by the European Commission with advising on how to facilitate the energy transition in Europe.

In the SAPEA evidence review report, experts underline that the energy transition is far from a purely technical challenge. To make the transition a reality, we need to solve a huge systemic problem, coordinating countless individual voluntary decisions on investment, consumption and behaviour across Europe.

This means transforming the entire European energy system — a change which will affect every part of our society and require huge investment during the transition. It must be done in a socially equitable way. And we already need to accelerate progress if we want to achieve the EU’s target of net zero emissions by 2050.

“Achieving the full decarbonisation of the EU energy system by mid-century is possible, but it requires urgent and decisive action to integrate emissions-free energy sources and uses in a flexible way, creating a participatory environment that supports clean energy choices, and using the right combination of regulatory instruments are necessary steps to make this transition efficient, inclusive and fair”, says professor Nebojsa Nakicenovic, deputy chair of the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors.

The report: A systemic approach to the energy transition in Europe


Photo: Wahid Sadiq (Unsplash)

The state of the Atlantic adds a layer of variability to local sea level rise in Europe, while the massive loss of ice mass in the Antarctic due to climate change is sufficient to affect the gravitational pull on the earth’s oceans so that they move towards the Northern Hemisphere. This is just one of the many findings of the EASAC’s 2-year expert study of the state of the North Atlantic. “European nations would be well advised to plan for a rise of one meter or more between 2000 and 2100,” says Prof. Michael Norton. The feared weakening of the Gulf Stream is not imminent. Nevertheless, scientists believe the danger is real and warn of its devastating consequences.

The European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) releases the results of its 2-year expert study of the state of the North Atlantic and its implications for Europe. The study assesses the latest knowledge on ocean issues which are critical for humanity’s fate on the planet. Its release coincides with the UN’s World Oceans day and adds weight and detail to the UN’s emphasis thatthe health of the oceans is intimately tied to our health.

“Europe’s future in the Atlantic realm is one both of great concern but also one of great promise”, says expert group Chair Prof. Tor Eldevik. “The report is very clear about future climatic risks, but equally focuses on the future benefits we can harvest from better understanding of the relations between the state of the Atlantic and climatic conditions over Europe that affects everything from the supply of renewable energy to fisheries.”

Sea levels to rise faster around Europe than in the global South

Looking at the most recent evidence on melting glaciers and ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctic, shows that sea-level rise is accelerating. “European nations would be well advised to plan for a rise of one meter or more between 2000 and 2100, and to closely monitor future trends to adjust as new data comes in,” concludes Prof. Michael Norton, EASAC’s Environment Director. “The loss of mass in the Antarctic is sufficient to affect the gravitational pull on the earth’s oceans so that they move away.  This means that as the Antarctic melts, oceans shift to the north and sea level rises even faster around Europe.”

Dramatic consequences on weather and marine ecosystems

The state of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) that includes the Gulf Stream circulation that acts as a conveyor of massive amounts of heat from the subtropics to the Arctic, shapes weather patterns and influences life on more than one continent.  As recently as 12,000 years ago, the AMOC “switched off” and drove destructive cooling- the possibility of this recurring as the planet warms has even inspired Hollywood movies!

Indeed, as the climate warms, models do suggest that the AMOC will weaken, but EASAC’s study finds that the latest measurements show that periodic weakening and recoveries do not yet reveal trends that can be separated from natural variability. Yet, and while the media image of a little ice age for NW Europe is not on the immediate horizon, the report also confirms how important this fundamental circulation in the Atlantic is – not just to Europe, but to the climate thousands of kilometers distant. “When the ocean currents change and the delicate balance between hot and warm is disturbed, the consequences can be dramatic, potentially affecting hundreds of millions of people. We need an early warning system,” says Norton.

The effects of acidification on marine ecosystems are not yet understood

Another result of increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere is that the oceans around Europe are acidifying – along with the rest of the world’s oceans.

Warming oceans are already reducing fishery yields. And changing marine ecosystems and make fisheries management more difficult and complex, so that the objective of sustainable fisheries depends on a much better understanding of how marine ecosystems respond to climate change. Marine Protected Areas may also need to move as the sea warms and circulation patterns change. “Europe doesn’t yet have a comprehensive monitoring network for acidity, and we need to understand much more how this will affect marine ecosystems and fisheries around our shores,” says Norton.

“Ocean shifts are very sensitive to success or failure in stopping warming”

“We have already put enough warmth into the planet to keep ice melting but how fast it melts is critical to our future,” says expert group Chair Prof. Tor Eldevik.  “Future ocean shifts are very sensitive to our success or failure in stopping warming. If we succeed in keeping the average warming to 1.5°C, then Antarctica may continue melting at current rates; but overshooting the 2 °C Paris Agreement target towards 3°C may lead to Antarctic melt alone add 0.5 cm a year by 2100.”

According to the scientists there is only one possible remedy: Slashing emissions and protecting and increasing the uptake of carbon by the world’s forests and other carbon sinks.  “It also means we should only support energy technologies that are low-carbon and thus reduce CO2 levels- another reason for preferring wind and solar renewable energies to biomass which continues to add CO2 to the atmosphere,” Norton reminds of findings of previous EASAC studies.

Report: A sea of change: Europe’s future in the Atlantic realm


European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC) is a umbrella organisation for science academies in Europe. The Council of Finnish Academies is a national member of EASAC.

To live up to their climate pledge under the Paris agreement, EU lawmakers must ensure all 250 million existing as well as all new buildings in the EU become nearly zero greenhouse gas emitters. In a new report, experts nominated by EASAC’s member science academies call for far-reaching policy action. “Policymakers have long focused on creating energy-efficient buildings that reduce the need for heating and air conditioning or generate renewable energy on site. But the energy used for operating buildings is only part of the story. We must urgently broaden the scope and look at emissions embodied in construction materials and methods – both for new buildings and building renovation.”, says William Gillett, EASAC’s Energy Programme Director.

Currently, between 1 and 1.5% of the European building stock is being renovated annually. “To meet the goals of the Paris agreement, that rate should be two or even three times higher”, points out Gillett. “But more importantly, we need to factor in the massive emissions of the construction industry and supply chain, when calculating the climate impact of buildings. Renovating a building to reduce its energy consumption makes little sense if there is no control of the carbon-intensive materials and components used for the renovation, and if these are transported over long distances.”

So far, EU policies have centered on the concept of ‘Nearly-zero energy buildings’ with a focus on reducing the consumption of energy used to provide comfort to building occupants. According to EASAC, this notion is outdated: “Instead, the indicator to be used now for assessing the climate impact of a new building or renovation should be cumulative greenhouse gas emissions, including embodied emissions produced by the building works and operating emissions produced by the building in the years following those works. As there are only about 10 years left before the door closes for limiting global warming to less than 1.5 oC, there is an urgent need over this period to limit the creation of embodied greenhouse gas emissions when renovating to produce nearly zero emission buildings”

Buildings should be designed to be disassembled and recycled at end of their lifetime

The report points out that most of the built environment is still designed using a linear take-make-consume-dispose approach. Transitioning to a circular economy would not only allow to reduce resource consumption and carbon footprint, but also address the waste problem. “Circularity has many facets”, explains Prof. Brian Norton, Co-chair of EASAC’s Working Group. “Many building materials can be reused, recycled and recovered. To start with, buildings and their components should be designed to be easily disassembled at the end of their use.”

Renovating existing buildings must be at the heart of the EU’s strategy, the scientists argue. “It’s important to consider the re-use of existing buildings rather than replacing existing buildings with new ones,” says Norton. “There is a lot of embodied carbon in a building structure, especially in the concrete and steel. With today’s technologies and digitalized processes, renovating has become a lot easier and sustainable. We have to stop the current practice of knocking down structures to rebuild from scratch.” The report also argues that legislation must put a limit of embodied carbon per m2 of floor area that is brought into a building when it is constructed or renovated.

Climate neutrality by 2050 requires renovating more than 90.000 homes – per week

In 2020, the European Commission presented its ‘Renovation Wave’ strategy to boost energy renovation of buildings in the EU. It intends to revise the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive as one of the cornerstones of that strategy. “While a Directive on the energy performance of buildings has been in place since 2002, recast in 2010 and revised in 2018, the results so far have been underwhelming”, says Gillett.

The challenge, however, is huge. „75% of the buildings Europeans live in are estimated to have a poor energy performance. To renovate them would require 146 million renovations in only 30 years. Member States’ current efforts are not sufficient,” explains Norton. “Achieving climate neutrality implies we need to renovate more than 90.000 homes per week across the EU – in itself an enormous challenge.” 

Buildings are an emission source that municipalities have a lot of control over

While the authors address their policy recommendations primarily to the European Union, they also make clear that cities have a big role to play. “Municipal Councils and urban planners have tremendous influence on procurement specifications. They can stimulate the renovation and construction of nearly zero GHG emission neighbourhoods with integrated energy and transport systems and adequate green spaces. They can facilitate up-grading existing district heating and cooling systems or build new ones with optimised use of renewable energy, including PV, heat pumps, solar and geothermal heating, waste heat and natural cooling. And they are particularly well-placed to oversee renovations of social housing and subsidise the deep renovation of private housing where necessary to reduce energy poverty.” says Norton.

EASAC’s messages to policymakers:

  • Phase out fossil fuels by 2030, increase integrated supplies of decarbonised electricity and heat to buildings, industry and transport, and accelerate the deployment of carbon capture and storage.
  • Use grants and incentivesto trigger, leverage and de-risk private financing for deep energy related building renovations.
  • Regulate levels of embodied GHG emissionsin building materials and components, and promote recycled materials, re-used building components, and renovation instead of demolition.
  • Refocus building regulations, certification schemes and incentivesto deliver new and renovated buildings that operate with nearly zero GHG emissions.
  • Promote health and wellbeingto double / triple rates of renovations that improve air quality, increase access to daylight, and avoid draughts and overheating as well as reducing GHG emissions.
  • Champion public authorities and cities,facilitate and support their commitments to decarbonise buildings and reduce energy poverty.
  • Expand and modernise the building industryto operate using circular business models with 3 million more jobs (including high quality jobs) to deliver new and renovated buildings with nearly zero GHG emissions
  • Improve access for building owners and professionals to certified dataon the embodied GHG emissions of building materials and components, and on the energy and GHG emission performance of new and renovated buildings
  • Update EU legislation(EPBD, EED, RED, ETS, CPD, Taxonomy) using an integrated approach to phase out fossil fuels, increase renewable energy supplies and reduce cumulative GHG emissions from buildings.


European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC) is a co-operative body for science academies in Europe. The Council of Finnish Academies is a national members of EASAC.

Photo: Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

In a new report, ALLEA examines the potential of technical and policy measures to tackle science disinformation and calls for improved European exchange and coordination in this field. Professor Risto Kunelius from Univeristy of Helsinki was one of the authors of the report.

While disinformation strategies are intoxicating public discourses in many fields, science disinformation is particularly dangerous to democratic governance and society at large. As highlighted by the ongoing pandemic, an undermining of trust in science poses a fundamental threat to political and individual decisions based on evidence and scientific knowledge.

The authors discuss the most prominent psychological, technical and political strategies to counter science disinformation, including inoculation, debunking, recommender systems, fact-checking, raising awareness, media literacy, as well as innovations in science communication and public engagement.

Following an analysis of the consequences of science disinformation in climate change, vaccine hesitancy and pandemics, the report concludes with a series of recommendations. The authors call for:

  • a stronger focus on communicating how science works and more dialogue in science communication practices,
  • a serious engagement with the public when exercising or communicating research,
  • valuing the virtue of intellectual humility when communicating scientific evidence,
  • the maintenance of good research practices and high ethical standards to ensure integrity and trustworthiness,
  • accountable, honest, transparent, tailored and effective science advice mechanisms.

To implement these proposals, the authors advise to establish a European Centre/Network for Science Communication and a European Code of Conduct for Science Communication.

Read the full report here:


ALLEA is the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities, representing more than 50 academies from over 40 countries in Europe. The Council of Finnish Academies is a national member of ALLEA.