LULUCF – nightmare for sustainable forestry
The forest states in the European Union (EU) are finding it increasingly difficult to grasp why the EU is setting out to impoverish the forest-based livelihoods in its member states, and only because of a lack of expertise or even unwillingness to understand. Petri Sarvamaa, a Finnish Member of the European Parliament (EPP) says this political battle “has been simply a nightmare”.
The EU Parliament is to decide next week on how to calculate the size of carbon sinks in the forests within the EU climate policy. Not only are the proposals concerning the LULUCF policy (land use, land use change and forests) beyond reasonable in the case of Finland, but they are also based on a practically complete non-understanding of boreal forestry.
Finnish forests have been a colossal carbon sink for long. They sequester more than half of Finland’s fossil carbon emissions. The thing that Finns have found most difficult to understand is that, according to the least favourable carbon balance calculations, they would not be able to use any of this sink to their benefit.
Other, less drastic calculations would require keeping the sink on its current level. This would mean that Finland could not increase the use of its forests from the present level. On the other hand, increasing the use of forests is an essential part of the bioeconomy policy which Finland has opted for in the interests of a better climate policy.
Forest products could replace fossil ones
What would be the result if the use of forests could not be increased? A great deal of projects are under way in Finland to create new forest-based products. Almost all of them are significantly more climate-friendly than their competitors.
Banning an increase of loggings would pose a direct threat to this development work: plastic bags could not be replaced with new paper bags with substantially improved properties, current textile manufacturing technologies and raw materials, whose impact on the climate, the environment and food production is extremely harmful, could not be replaced with textiles made directly from wood fibre.
A move in this direction would erode the industries’ ability to finance product development and research. We might never see wood-based medications for men’s prostate problems, or several other pharmaceuticals or health products currently being developed.
What is more, we would also have to give up our goals of creating a carbon sink larger than ever in our forests, and this at a moment when we most need it, that is, during the latter half of this century. We would just see another EU paradox: decisions made with good intentions ultimately turn against themselves.
“We can’t afford extra costs”
Last Monday, Finnish climate negotiators received an angry message from the Finnish forest owners – who make up one fifth of the country’s population: a meeting organized by the Finnish landowners’ union MTK made it clear that they would have no business coming back from Brussels with plans involving any extra expenditure for Finns. Speaking at the meeting, MEP Petri Sarvamaa said that the Commission’s plans are just the kind of decisions that make citizens turn against the EU.