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Minister defends Finland's push to clear forests for biofuels

Finland's Economic Affairs Minister says government's flagship programme to promote biofuels use is sustainable, despite IPCC statements to the contrary.

Mika Lintilä
Mika Lintilä Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva
Pamela Kaskinen

In a report issued on Monday, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) emphasized the importance of forests as a natural carbon sink in the fight against global warning, advising countries to halt deforestration if at all possible.

Ministry for Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä appeared on Yle's Aamu-tv breakfast programme on Tuesday to respond to renewed criticism of the government's biofuel push, inspired by the IPCC report. Opponents say increased harvesting in Finnish forests is not sustainable, nor is it the right path for Finland to follow.

"It is the right one, and the thing I am most pleased about, is that Finnish businesses see it more as an opportunity than a threat," the minister said.

He added that plans for a new biofuel refinery will not be reconsidered in light of the IPCC's comments. A Chinese-owned company named Kaidi plans to build a biodiesel refinery in Kemi that will produce 200,000 metric tons of biofuel per year in 2019.

"We have to work to move away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy," Lintilä said. "We have to remember that our need for energy is forecast to grow. We have to produce this energy somehow, and in my understanding, the desire to increase nuclear power is quite low. This is a difficult problem we have to confront."

One of the main objectives of Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipilä's government upon gaining office was making Finland a "pioneer in the bioeconomy" , in other words, the use of renewable, bio-based natural resources, environmentally friendly clean technologies and efficient recycling of materials.

A specific goal of this push was a goal to increase the use of wood as a source of renewable biofuel energy by 15 million cubic metres a year. Finland has plentiful forests, as over three-quarters of its land area is covered by trees. In 2016, slightly over 17 percent of this forest land was protected.

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