Proposed rules for land and forest use would be problematic for Finland

Finland’s ability to utilise its forest resources would be limited under new accounting rules for land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) unveiled by the European Parliament’s ENVI Committee.

Finnish industries and policy makers have voiced their disappointment with the accounting rules for land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) proposed by the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) Committee.

The ENVI Committee on Tuesday voted in favour of adopting a draft report that would effectively cap the use of forest resources at the levels of 2000–2012.

The European Parliament is to discuss the draft report in its plenary session in September.

“If the future logging volumes exceeded the past logging volumes of a country, they would be classified as emissions. The country in question would then have to compensate by reducing emissions from other sectors or by obtaining emissions rights from the market,” explained Anneli Jäätteenmäki (Centre), a member of the ENVI Committee.

She said she voted against adopting the draft report.

Finland’s second representative in the committee, Nils Torvalds (SFP), was absent from the vote as he participated in a presidential debate at Suomi Areena, a public debate event organised annually in Pori. He did, however, voice his staunch opposition to the proposal in an interview on YLE TV1 on Tuesday.

Ahti Fagerblom, the head of energy and climate policy at Finnish Forest Industries, admitted that the draft report would be problematic for Finland.

“The thought of deciding that forests should be used in the same way as before is ridiculous when you’re thinking about future issues. I fail to see the merits of such thinking,” he said in an interview with Uusi Suomi. “We’ve obviously cultivated forests with the idea of being able to harvest them later.”

Finnish Forest Industries has lobbied for an accounting system that would determine the allowed intensity of forest management based on realised forest growth rates. Finnish forests are currently growing at twice the rate of the late 1960s, according to Fagerblom.

The proposed accounting rules would be a burden for countries rich in forest resources, such as Finland and Sweden.

Both Fagerblom and Jäätteenmäki pointed out that the selected reference period makes the proposal problematic especially for Finland, which experienced a severe economic downturn that affected the already struggling forest industries in 2000–2012. Sweden, on the other hand, was less affected and able to utilise a greater proportion of its industrial forest resources.

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“I doubt it’s particularly smart to set the objective of sustaining the bad situation and limited use of forest resources while seeking to develop the bioeconomy,” commented Fagerblom. “[The proposal] clearly puts countries in an unequal position.”

The draft report has faced criticism also across Europe.

“We should not penalise countries that did not use the full potential of their forests in the past,” commented Emma Berglund, the secretary general of the Confederation of European Forest Owners (CEPF).

“Member states should be able to use their growing forests for developing a fossil-free bioeconomy and forest owners should be enabled to continue investing in sustainable forest management – the best long-term strategy to maintain the carbon sink and ensure the climate benefits of forests,” she added.

The issue of forest resource use has also been discussed by the European Parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee and Agricultural and Rural Development (AGRI) Committee. From a Finnish viewpoint, both of the committees adopted a much more favourable position on the issue than the ENVI Committee, reminded Fagerblom.

He also dispelled some of the concerns by reminding that the draft report will be considered not only by the European Parliament but also by the European Commission and the Council of the European Union.

“We have to hope a sensible compromise is found,” he said.

If Finland decided or was forced to cut back on logging, other countries would step in to satisfy the demand for timber and other forest produce, added Fagerblom.

“We should also recognise that if the products aren’t made here, they’d definitely be made somewhere else and the trees would still be cut down. It’s hypocritical to think that something good is happening in the climate if the trees are cut down in our neighbouring countries instead of here,” he stated.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

Photo: Roni Rekomaa – Lehtikuva

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