Finland may have to buy land use sink units for up to 50–80 million CO2-equivalent tons. Such an assessment can be made from the report published by the Finnish Natural Resources Agency (Luke) on Wednesday.

The amount of the bill can be divided by the current price of the emission right. In that case, the amount would be around seven billion euros. However, it is not possible to make far-future conclusions about the current price of emission rights. Luke and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry are not going to evaluate the number yet.

The pattern is linked to the EU’s Lulucf regulation, where the first review period covers the years 2021–2025. The emissions must not exceed the sinks during the period in question.

If the sink target is not met, the sink units must be purchased from EU countries. There is still no assessment of whether sink units are possibly available and how other countries will meet their goals in the same period. The situation would materialize in 2027.

Forests as a sink

Forests are still a net sink, but it had fallen so low that it does not cover emissions from other land use categories.

The most significant reasons for the decrease in the net sink of forests are the slowdown in tree growth, the amount of felling and the new method of assessing soil emissions, states Luke’s report.

According to Luke, the age structure of pine forests has developed in such a way that the growth decreases. The age structure of the forests, taking into account all tree species, explains about a fifth of the 4.5 million cubic meter decrease in growth observed in the national forest inventories (VMI12 and VMI13).

In terms of age structure, the growth of the trees will probably remain at the current level or may further decrease slightly in the next few years.

The slowed growth of forests, especially in pine forests, is also affected by three weak growing seasons in 2018–2020.

In southern Finland, these growing seasons have been exceptionally dry. In northern Finland, only the 2018 growing season was exceptionally dry, but the growth level of 2019 and 2020 has been weakened by the strong pine cone production in northern Finland.

Luke estimates that at the current level of logging, growth can only increase in the next few years if the environmental factors are favorable.

From the point of view of growth, excessive thinning has also been done in Finland.

Further actions are expected

Pickaxes also play a role.

By the end of October, fellings of industrial wood in 2022 were three percent lower than in 2021, but during the end of 2022 the total amount of fellings may reach last year’s level.

According to Luke’s report, the use of domestic wood has increased and will continue to increase in the next few years due to the industry’s new investment decisions and the end of wood imports from Russia.

Luke estimates that the carbon sink of forests in the period 2021–2025 will be 50–100 million CO2 equivalent tons lower than the reference level.

“With the realized forest sink of 50-100 million CO2-equivalent tons and with the emissions from other land use at the current level, in addition to the forest flexibility and Finland’s separate flexibility, we have to acquire the missing units from other member countries or compensate with units from the burden-sharing sector,” the report states.

In the report, the need is estimated at approximately 50–80 million CO2-equivalent tons.

Based on the report and other additional reports agreed in the summer of 2022, the State Council will examine further steps

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