MP Talk gives members of parliament the opportunity to share their views on Finnish society with an international audience. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Helsinki Times.
At the start of this millennium at the latest, the European Union took on a leading role in the global fight against climate change.
The emissions trading scheme can be mentioned as one of the many goal-oriented actions already in place to reduce emissions. The scheme already encompasses the energy and transport industries, along with certain other industries and sources of emissions. These industries are obligated to reduce their carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the entire EU area by 20% compared to the level of the 2000s by the year 2020.
Now, the EU is preparing its actions moving towards 2030. So far, the growth of forests and changes in carbon storage related to land use and fields have not been taken into account when drawing up country-specific emissions balances. Moving forward, these will be taken into consideration when planning measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
These European measures are, in principle, responsible and positive. However, their implementation may restrict the planned use of Finnish forests, which are the best cared for in the world and which constantly increase their carbon storage.
There is a danger that under the EU's so-called LULUCF solutions, Finnish forests will be calculated as producers of CO2 emissions rather than as carbon reservoirs, sinks or storage. This could mean as much as hundreds of millions in annual emissions costs. The reason for the threat lies in the EU climate policy's new specifications on forests moving towards 2030.
According to a new estimate from National Resources Institute Finland, there will be as much as 110 million cubic metres of new forest growth in Finland this year.
The total volume of felled stemwood is estimated to increase to slightly over 72 million cubic metres. In addition to industrial material felling, this figure also includes firewood for household use and stemwood used to make woodchips for energy production.
The annual growth rate of Finnish forests is estimated to increase to 115–120 million cubic metres by 2030. According to similar estimates presented by the country's government and the forestry sector, the volume of felling may increase to 80–85 million cubic metres by the same year.
These estimates are backed by confidence in major forestry industry projects, rather than solely relying on Metsä Group's Äänekoski investment coming to fruition.
The EU's incomprehensible plans do, however, fully account for changes in land use as a source of emissions on the national carbon balance sheet.
With regard to forest growth, the balance sheet would take into account only the difference between growth and felling to the extent that it surpasses the difference achieved in earlier years.
This means that under this calculation model, Finnish forests, whose carbon storage has increased immensely over the past decades and particularly over the period of financial crisis a few years ago, will be calculated as sources of emissions. This would be the case even though they generate tens of millions of tonnes worth of CO2 storage each year.
Correspondingly, if a country has felled even more forest than the amount that has grown up until the present time, it would now be able to count any growth even slightly exceeding felling volumes as increased carbon storage. It would be able to do so even if its carbon storage were only a fraction of the growing carbon storage we have.
Finland must take care to ensure that this model, which would be costly for Finland and is not based on biological facts, does not become a reality. The most recent news about the EU's deliberation on the matter is not encouraging. Ultimately, the responsibility for the EU deliberation continuing this autumn now lies with the country's government and Finnish members of the European Parliament.
Mauri Pekkarinen is the First Deputy Speaker of Parliament and a member of the Centre Party. Previously serving as the Minister of Economic Affairs, Minister of Trade and Industry and Minister of the Interior, Mr. Pekkarinen has been an MP since 1979.