Member States reach agreement regarding forest carbon sinks – Finland needs to continue to find a reasonable solution

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The agreement EU Member States reached regarding accounting rules for forest carbon sinks (LULUCF) is unsatisfactory, as Finland’s emissions could be calculated as increasing despite the fact that its forest resources are growing and functioning as carbon sinks that cool down the climate. Finland must continue to actively influence decision making in order to get a more balanced outcome on this issue.

The forest industry thinks that the European Parliament’s recent alignment was better than the agreement achieved by Member States. According to the Parliament, wood use could be increased in future as long as forest resources continue to grow. This would be an approach that treats all Member States equally and it would ensure that forest carbon sinks continue to grow in future.

Big picture in policy becomes unclear

Carbon sink related policy is absolutely central to Finland from many points of view. Increased wood use offers opportunities to reduce emissions, increase renewable energy, as well as strengthen the economy – i.e. opportunities for sustainable development. It would be unsustainable if policy would outsource the positive economic, labour, and environmental impacts of wood use to areas outside Finland or Europe. If the forest-based products in demand on global markets are not manufactured here, they will be manufactured somewhere else.

One positive factor is that Member States agree on the importance of meeting the Paris commitments and the long-term perspective of forests. It is apparent that Finland is on track to balance its emissions and carbon sinks before 2050 and thus it can be among the frontrunners in realising the Paris commitments. However, this requires motivation to invest in forests that grow fast and are healthy. The possibility to increase wood use is the best incentive in this direction.

Finnish decisions makers in Finland and Brussels still have much to do

Next the Commission, Member States, and the Parliament must find an overall solution that will allow Finland to utilise wood as outlined in its national strategies without additional costs or damage to its reputation. The Commission has given assurances that the carbon sink policy is not meant to interfere with Member States’ plans. We must now receive guarantees that this cannot happen even by accident.

Finland has been an active and solution-seeking negotiator in forest carbon sink issues. It is good that Finland has, for its part, enabled the fluent handling of the political processes related to forest carbon sinks and the effort sharing sector. Finland must continue its efforts to secure a sensible and realistic outcome for climate policy. The European Parliament’s carbon sink policy leaves opportunities for such an outcome.

Additional information

Ahti Fagerblom

Manager, Energy and Climate Policy

+358 40 820 9763