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Durban forest provisions criticised

The new agreement forged at the UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa is expected to impact the use of Finnish forests. Under the terms of the agreement, the capacity of forestlands to act as carbon sinks cannot be used to compensate for diminished forestland area. The Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners (MTK) says that this may cost Finland tens of millions in emission payments.

Kangasalan Vesijärvi
Image: YLE / Petri Aaltonen

The Durban meeting agreed on a means to calculate carbon sequestration, the process by which carbon is pulled out of the atmosphere by carbon "sinks" such as trees. Forests form such sinks, if annual growth is higher than annual deforestation. In Finland, the volume of forest growth annually is dozens of millions of cubic metres in the black.

However, as of the beginning of 2013, Finland will have to pay for calculated emissions, if the land area, not the volume of forests declines.

According to the Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners (MTK), the area of forestlands in Finland falls slightly every year as a consequence of normal construction and the development of infrastructure. At the same time, however, forest volume has been increasing at a rate of 30-40 million cubic metres per year, and the forests form a sink that swallows up about 50 percent of the country's total carbon emissions.

The MTK argues that the new agreement will cost Finland tens of millions of euros in emission payments.

"This violates general fairness. All available means should be used to fight climate change, but someone in the government should be defending Finland's interests," argues MTK chairman Juha Marttila.

According to Marttila, Environment Minister Ville Niinistö made a significant departure from previous government policy, according to which the biological carbon sequestration of the nation's forests should not be transformed into calculated emissions.

"This injustice will be invoiced to Finland, with the taxpayers footing the bill," says MTK chairman Marttila.

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