Finland takes climate impacts of land use very seriously
In its most recent report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) examines the relationship of land use to climate change mitigation and adaptation. The climate impacts of land use and the solutions needed to tackle them vary greatly from one part of the world to the other. In Finland, the focus of the analysis is on the country’s expansive forests and peatlands.
Forests cover more than 70 per cent of Finland’s total land area and, in recent years, around 0.1 per cent of forested land has been converted into built land or agricultural land each year. Around one third of Finland’s land area is made up of marshes and peatlands, and the use of these lands has a greater impact on the climate than that of mineral soil. About half of Finland’s peatlands are used for forestry, while around three per cent are used for agriculture. Peat fields make up approximately 10 per cent of all fields, and around a quarter of the tree stand in forests grows on peatland.
The National Forest Strategy, updated in spring 2019, emphasises the importance of forest use and management for climate change mitigation and adaptation, and a great deal of information is available concerning the use of peatland forests, for instance. The special features of peatland forests are taken into account in the Best Practices for Sustainable Forest Management, and training on the subject is available to forestry professionals. In addition, researchers are constantly producing new data on the most effective ways to prevent the negative impacts of peatland use on waterways and the climate. We also take active measures to prevent damage associated with climate change, such as insect damage, plant diseases and forest fires.
The number of trees in Finland’s forests has been growing continuously for the past 50 years. Forestry management methods were diversified in the reform of the Forest Act, and forest management recommendations are updated regularly based on new research data, with the most recent update made in June on the topic of forest management and adaptation to climate change. A variety of measures are in place to strengthen biodiversity, including the METSO programme.
The most important tools for implementing climate action in the agricultural sector are the support measures of the EU Common Agricultural Policy that aim to mitigate the impact of agriculture on the climate and the environment. Support is granted for actions concerning plant cover in winter, buffer zones, nature management fields and crop diversification, among others. Measures to mitigate and adapt to climate change will continue to feature prominently in EU agricultural policy in the next funding period as well.
New climate programme in the works for the land use sector
Prime Minister Rinne’s Government Programme pays due attention to the role of the land use sector in mitigating climate change. The Government aims to prepare a comprehensive climate plan for the land use sector that will, among other measures, advance afforestation and prevent clear cutting of forests for other types of land use. A further objective is to launch a pilot programme to maintain and increase carbon sinks and storage and to develop and pilot a carbon compensation system for the land use sector.
The Government is also starting a research, data and development programme aiming to support the execution of the various elements of the climate programme for the land use sector. One of the objectives of the programme is to advance the production of wood products with a long life cycle and to increase the rate of wood construction in order to strengthen substitution effects. With the right actions, we can further advance the replacement of fossil fuels with renewable materials.
The Government Programme emphasises the importance of implementing emissions reduction measures in a way that is socially and regionally fair. Seeking out and implementing solutions calls for cooperation between different sectors, but above all we need policy measures and solutions that take into account the regional and local conditions affecting the targeted operators.
IPCC Climate Change and Land report
See also Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources Institute Finland press release 8 August 2019
Inquiries at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry:
Elias Hurmekoski, Senior Specialist (IPCC report, climate impacts of forests), tel. +358 29 516 2092
Jaana Kaipainen, Ministerial Adviser (general climate impacts of land use), tel. +358 29 516 2270
Milja Keskinen, Senior Specialist (climate impacts of agriculture), tel. +358 29 516 2255
Saara Lilja-Rothsten, Ministerial Adviser (adaptation to climate change), tel. +358 29 516 2060
Email addresses are in the format [email protected]