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Finland's ability to use its forest resources would have been limited considerably by the new accounting rules proposed by the European Commission.
Finland's ability to use its forest resources would have been limited considerably by the new accounting rules proposed by the European Commission.

 

The European Parliament on Wednesday voted for revising a proposal for new regulations for land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) drafted by the European Commission.

The vote result was met with an almost collective sigh of relief in Finland, as the initial proposal would have capped the use of forest resources to the levels of 2000–2012 and obliged all member states to compensate for excess use by cutting emissions in other sectors or buying emissions rights from the market.

Finland, therefore, would have had to compensate for increasing its logging volume even if the volume remained below annual forest growth rates.

The revisions approved yesterday will eliminate this problem, Nils Torvalds (SFP), one of the co-author of the revised proposal, stated to Helsingin Sanomat on Wednesday.

The revisions will ensure the intensity of forest management – the allowable cut as a share of annual forest growth – is no longer the only metric used to measure the sustainability of forest management in the European Union, he added in an interview with Uusi Suomi.

The European Parliament decided that member states will be allowed to increase logging volumes as long as they comply with the principles of sustainable forest management, remain committed to long-term emissions cut targets and their forests continue to serve as carbon sinks.

“This is a delightful result,” Torvalds said to Helsingin Sanomat.

Kimmo Tiilikainen, the Minister of Agriculture and the Environment, said he is pleased with the vote result, as it allows Finland to take advantage of an increasing share of its forest resources as long as it remains committed to the principles of sustainable forest management.

“The boundary conditions are clear: forests as a whole must serve as carbon sinks also in the future, and Finland must adopt the objective of becoming carbon neutral,” he commented in a press release from the Ministry of the Environment. “Well-managed forests will remain a major part of our efforts to combat climate change also in the future.”

The European Parliament’s position is also in line with the Paris Agreement, which encourages countries to increase forest areas and manage forests in a sustainable way, according to Tiilikainen.

“The [European] Parliament is looking forward, not in the rear-view mirror,” he summarised.

The vote result, however, also stirred up concerns among Finnish Members of the European Parliament.

Heidi Hautala (Greens) argued that by placing an emphasis on the long-term maintenance of carbon sinks rather than on the annual impact of logging on the ability of forests to absorb carbon dioxide emissions, the revisions will allow member states to mask emissions and reduce carbon sinks.

“We have no time for this at such a crucial moment in time. The EU must lead the way in combating climate change,” she wrote on Facebook.

Hautala was one of four Members of the European Parliament from Finland who voted against the revisions, according to Uusi Suomi.

Silvia Modig (LA), the deputy chairperson of the Parliament’s Environment Committee, similarly pointed out that the revised proposal fails to take annual logging volumes into account in calculating long-term carbon emissions.

“If we raise logging volumes massively as planned by [Prime Minister Juha] Sipilä’s government, we’ll release carbon into the atmosphere for decades. The equation might work if we had 50 years to stop climate change, but we must take action in the next 14 years. We simply have no time to wait,” she said according to Uusi Suomi.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Roni Rekomaa – Lehtikuva

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