A harvester at a thinning site in a forest area owned by UPM in Janakkala, Southern Finland, in May 2022. A modest decline in logging allowed the land-use sector to sequester a million tonne more carbon dioxide than it emitted, according to a flash estimate published on Wednesday by Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke). (Markku Ulander – Lehtikuva)


THE LAND-USE SECTOR of Finland was narrowly a carbon sink in 2022, according to a flash estimate published on Wednesday by Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke).

The sector had turned from a carbon sink into a source of emissions for the first time ever a year earlier, kindling nationwide debate about the declining ability of forests to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – not least due to its importance for the national carbon-neutrality target of 2035.

“Although the land-use sector reverted to a net sink according to the flash estimate, the sink remained close to zero and changed only little from the situation in 2021,” said Paula Ollila, a researcher at Luke.

Luke attributed the minor but positive change to a year-on-year drop of two per cent in logging volumes, which allowed the land-use sector to sequester a million tonnes more carbon dioxide than its activities caused. By comparison, the annual net sink was an average of almost 28 million tonnes in 2000–2009.

Logging volumes had reached their second highest level in history in 2021.

Helsingin Sanomat on Wednesday wrote that one reason for the decline in logging volumes is the difficult situation in the global pulp market. The price of pulp has collapsed while that of pulp wood has soared domestically due to the suspension of exports from Russia. The situation is having an impact on wood demand also in Finland.

While the net sink of forests grew from 8.3 to 10.1 million tonnes of carbon-dioxide equivalents between 2021 and 2022, emissions from agricultural land increased by four per cent from 8.5 to 8.9 million tonnes of carbon-dioxide equivalents.

Finnish carbon sinks have been shrinking for the past decade mostly as a consequence of rising logging volumes and the ageing and slowing growth of forests. With the country emitting 45.8 million tonnes of carbon-dioxide equivalents in 2022, the task of reducing emissions and strengthening carbon sinks to the extent that they at least offset one another by 2035 looks daunting.

Helsingin Sanomat highlighted that emissions from the land-use sector are also bound by targets set forth in the land-use regulation of the EU. Finland is presently set to fall well short of its targets for both 2025 and 2030, a prospect that could have financial repercussions.

Luke on Wednesday reminded that the flash estimate is based on information on variables such as wood growth and the carbon sink of wood products from 2021. The greenhouse gas inventory may thus be adjusted notably when the preliminary data is published in December.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT