Finland’s Carbon Emissions Overshadow Our Forests

Your correspondent has spent several day looking as Finland’s carbon dioxide emissions and what needs to be done to reduce them. The piles of papers and arguments between different interests are terribly complex but this article tries to summarise the main points.

The main conclusion is that the Finnish government, industry and ordinary Finns need to be roped in to do much more if we want to ensure a safe life for our children. It is as simple as that – doing nothing is a suicidal pact that only the True Finns are selling to their supporters.

Finland produces a lot of carbon emissions because we have a very big energy sector – it’s cold here and we also have a large forestry and metal sectors. We have understood the importance of cutting emissions and being energy efficient. You can see that we emitted around 57 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2018 down from almost 80 million tons some 15 years ago.

Today we are not resting on our laurels. The government wants us to be carbon neutral by 2035, but that target looks to be rather challenging without many more measures. The EU is less ambitious with an agreement between member states that they shall be carbon neutral by 2050. We are obliged to reduce emissions, increase their carbon absorption rate or compensate for any overrun by buying emission certificates that are expected to cost around €100 a ton of carbon dioxide. 

Finland is lucky in one sense because we have such huge forest areas. When trees grow they absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide – we call that a large carbon sink. Only last year scientists thought that the forests would absorb between 40% and 80% of the carbon dioxide emissions in the coming years. But things look different now one year later.

The forestry sector is proposing to build several new pulp plants that will increase in the volume of wood cut in the forest. Estimates range from 10 to 20 million cubic meters of wood – that is a substantial increase in the removal of wood from Finland’s forests. The forest industry says that the annual growth of the forests far exceeds the expected annual increase in cutting. However other independent experts have expressed doubts about the validity of the forest industry’s calculations. 

There are no disputes about the size of the carbon dioxide emissions in 2018, and there are no disputes about the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the forests in 2018. But as soon as experts start to try to forecast the amounts of future emissions and absorption rates disagreements start appear between different interests.

The latest scientific calculations published here in November 2019 based on an interpretation of the new regulations, forest data and improved models has resulted in a much lower level of carbon dioxide absorption than previously calculated in November 2018! 

Within the Finnish scientific community, industrial interests, and political parties there are disagreements about the validity of the calculations. 

A recent review by a large group of scientists of six of the main models produced highly divergent results based on the same input data. The differences were large and it’s not at all surprising that there are diverging opinions based on what method is chosen to calculate emissions and absorption rates.

Countries like Finland cannot sit back and do nothing, something only one political party, the True Finns, are foolishly proposing. If nothing is done then we will miss out on the  opportunities to develop cleantech solutions for the export markets, and we will be exposing ourselves to hundreds of millions of euros in emission certificate costs, money that is badly needed for education and care of the elderly, etc…

The new forecasts actually mean that much more must be done to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and to increase the carbon dioxide absorption rates by better management of the forests. The Finnish government must introduce new policies to motivate industry and ordinary Finns to participate in this work. Just think back 50 years ago – smoking in planes and restaurants was cool! 50 years ago glaciers and the Artic ice covered huge areas. 50 years ago there was deep winter snow in Helsinki for months, today just wet Slush…

Site Footer