Skip to content

Climate panel chair: New emissions plan urgently needed due to loss of forest carbon sinks

Finland's goal of carbon neutrality by 2035 is in doubt due to the loss of forest carbon sinks, says the head of the Climate Panel.

Finland's forests can no longer absorb emissions from peat harvesting and deforestation, for instance. Image: Aki Paavola / Lehtikuva
Yle News

Markku Ollikainen, chair of the Finnish Climate Panel, warns that the government's commitment to make Finland carbon-neutral by 2035 is slipping out of reach.

This follows last month's news that Finland's entire land use and forestry sector (known officially as LULUCF) has become a net source of emissions for the first time in recorded history.

Ollikainen, who is Research Director at the University of Helsinki's Department of Economics and Management, demands urgent action from the government.

Article continues after photo

University of Helsinki Professor Emeritus Markku Ollikainen chairs the Finnish Climate Panel. Image: Petteri Bülow / Yle

The centre-left cabinet led by Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) has failed in its policies regarding the land use sector, he told Yle on Friday.

Cautionary tale for the rest of Europe

According to Ollikainen, the situation in Finland is a good example for the rest of Europe of what happens if the land use sector – mainly agriculture and forestry – does not take climate action seriously.

"The government must take steps to reinforce the carbon sinks," Ollikainen said.

The forest industry must also take a hard look in the mirror, he said.

"It would be more than desirable for the forest industry to voluntarily consider ways to boost the carbon sinks," Ollikainen said. He urges forest owners to refrain from felling their forests if there is not an acute need for it.

The 15-member Climate Panel, established in 2012, is an expert body appointed by the government to make policy recommendations.

Kurvinen rejects reconsider of plan

In late May, Statistics Finland (siirryt toiseen palveluun) announced that the land use sector (LULUCF) was for the first time a net source of emissions, totalling 2.1 million tonnes of CO₂ eq. last year.

Following the news, the Finnish Environment Institute (Syke) and the Climate Panel demanded that the climate plan for forests and land use be completely overhauled.

This means that the carbon sink formed by Finnish forests is no longer enough to absorb carbon dioxide emissions from peat harvesting and deforestation, for example.

Peat harvesting has been drastically reduced due to its high emissions, but there have been calls for a return to its use for energy following the sharp drop in energy imports from Russia.

The climate plan for the land use sector is one of the three main prongs of the centre-left government's plan to make Finland carbon-neutral within the next 13 years.

Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Antti Kurvinen of the Centre Party – which has close ties to the agriculture and forest industries – has said that he does not intend to reconsider the plan, despite the new data on the collapse of the carbon sink.

Last week the Natural Resources Institute (Luke), which operates under his ministry, said that logging exceeds sustainable levels in many parts of Finland.

Latest: paketissa on 10 artikkelia