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Greenpeace slams Finland's "untenable" carbon sink reduction plans

Environment minister Kimmo Tiilikainen defended government's plans to boost logging, but said sustainability is paramount.

Sini Harkki, Kimmo Tiilikainen ja Markku Ollikainen.
Greenpeace's Sini Harkki, Environment Minister Kimmo Tiilikainen and Climate Panel chair Markku Ollikainen. Image: Yle, AOP

Environmental organisation Greenpeace on Saturday called the government's plans to increase logging in Finland's forests an "untenable move" that would shrink the country's carbon sinks significantly.

Leader of Greenpeace's Finnish branch Sini Harkki appeared on Yle's morning politics show on Saturday to criticise the government's proposal to increase forestry areas from the current level of 66 million cubic metres annually to 80 million cubic metres per year by 2025.

Harkki was joined by Minister of the Environment Kimmo Tiilikainen and Finland's Climate Panel chair, professor Markku Ollikainen for a discussion that came on the heels of an international report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calling for world nations to prevent the global temperature average from warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius – which itself will still bring catastrophes worldwide.

Finland's forests could play a significant part in reaching the goal, if there are enough of them to offset emissions by binding carbon atoms, Greenpeace's Harkki said.

"This increased logging measure would make our carbon sinks drastically smaller in the next 12 years, which is the time frame for halving global emissions and bringing Finland's pollution as close to zero as possible," she said. "Government must change its position."

Professor Ollikainen agreed that the logging measures would decrease carbon sinks, but said the specific uses of the logged materials would also make a difference.

"Finland will be releasing more CO2 into the atmosphere if forestry levels increase. However, in 2025 our levels will be about the same as in 2014," Ollikainen said.

Minister: Decreased logging would lead to non-renewable material use hike

Tiilikainen made it clear that he considers the government's 80-million cubic meter target to be sustainable, in line with the IPCC report findings. He said that the amount of forestry is connected to the growth rate of Finland's forests.

"As forests keep growing faster, we can also carefully increase our use of wood materials," Tiilikainen said. "At the same time we must ensure that ecological diversity, the recreational use of forests and ever more important carbon sinks can be preserved in the future."

Tiilikainen's view is that decreasing forestry in Finland would simply result in the practice being increased somewhere else in the world, and that manufacturers would turn to non-renewable materials such as plastic and concrete to replace wood and cellulose.

"Let's build up our carbon sinks and stop bickering about how many cubic metres will be felled," he said. "We cannot look at this from a merely Finnish perspective."

Harkki responded by saying that Finland should be one of the first countries in the world to cut its carbon emissions entirely.

"Every single country on Earth needs to start getting used to different industrial infrastructures," she said. "We can develop the solutions that can curb the rampant use of disposable products around the world."

For live audio discussion on people in Finland living with climate change, listen to this week's All Points North broadcast with climate experts Outi Haanperä and Hanna Aho.

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