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Kimmo Tiilikainen (Centre), the Minister for Housing, Energy and the Environment, spoke to reporters after his colleagues moved to adopt new rules for calculating the carbon sink of forests. Finland has voiced its opposition to the rules, arguing that they would hamstring its ability to utilise its forest resources.
Kimmo Tiilikainen (Centre), the Minister for Housing, Energy and the Environment, spoke to reporters after his colleagues moved to adopt new rules for calculating the carbon sink of forests. Finland has voiced its opposition to the rules, arguing that they would hamstring its ability to utilise its forest resources.

 

Kimmo Tiilikainen (Centre), the Minister for Housing, Energy and the Environment, has expressed his disappointment with the new rules for calculating the carbon sink capacity of forests approved by the Council of the European Union in Luxembourg on Friday.

“We can’t be satisfied with this,” he stated to Helsingin Sanomat.

The rules essentially allow member states to increase the use of forest resources as long as the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by forests across the union continues to grow. Member states are also allowed some flexibility as the rules make it possible to re-allocate emissions from the emissions-trading sectors to the effort-sharing sectors.

The Council of the EU also agreed to introduce a new compensation mechanism of up to 360 million tonnes carbon-dioxide equivalent to allow member states to increase logging up to a pre-determined amount calculated based on their average carbon sink in 2000–2009.

Finland, for example, will consequently be allowed to increase the use of forest resources by almost 55 million tonnes of carbon-dioxide equivalent.

The country has opposed the new accounting rules partly because they would effectively cap the use of forest resources at the levels of 2000–2012.

“Forest use [intensity] should not be contingent on history, but we should create growth opportunities for the bioeconomy and, thereby, offer incentives for investing in forest growth,” reiterated Tiilikainen. “We together with other more forested countries managed to create some distance between today and the past. Too many member states, however, continued to perceive forests passively as a fixed [resource] and opposed Finland’s objective of providing more room for a growing and sustainable bioeconomy.”

The so-called land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) rules have been designed to ensure all emissions and absorptions generated by the LULUCF sector are taken into account in measuring the progress made with respect to the climate goals of the European Union.

The EU has adopted an overall target of cutting emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030.

Tiilikainen warned that the rules could prove counter-intuitive and hinder the transition away from fossil fuels at the expense of the development of the bioeconomy and circular economy.

“The bioeconomy and circular economy are both better alternatives to the fossil economy. We have no other choice. Unfortunately many of my colleagues thought yesterday that they were protecting the environment, but they accidentally ended up protecting the fossil economy. The work continues,” he wrote.

Finnish forests, he highlighted, are currently growing at twice the race of the late 1960s. As the growth has more than compensated for logging activities, also the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the forests has nearly doubled over the past half-a-century.

“Finland’s forests are growing by more than 100 million cubic metres a year – clearly outpacing the extent of forest use. Finnish forests’ carbon sink has varied between 20 and 40 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in recent decades,” stated Tiilikainen.

He also reminded that the motivation to support forest growth has traditionally arisen from the ability of forest owners to benefit from their assets later.

“Without this economic motivation, our forests would not be as gigantic a carbon sink as they are today. That is why forest use and climate benefits are not in conflict with one another. They are parallel, complementary objectives.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Anniina Luotonen – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi

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