War calls for changes in forest policy
24 February 2022 brought a fundamental, sad change to the global community. The war meant immediate changes to the operating environment that were also reflected in the forest industry. This must also impact the forest policy and the national forest strategy guiding it. The forest strategy must live with the times, and fortunately it is currently being updated at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland.
Choices are an important facet of the national forest strategy. If all the stakeholders get their hopes recorded in the strategy, the strategy becomes a wish list instead of a list of choices guiding the scant resources towards the desired end result. Unfortunately, the resources are limited, although not everyone seems to realise it.
One of the key effects of the war has to do with the timber market. In 2021, Finland imported 9.3 million m3 of wood as raw material from Russia, amounting to about 10% of the entire raw material use of Finland’s forest industry. Now, the import has ended.
This new situation invokes some key questions. Do we want to use our forest strategy to secure the competitive strength of our industry by encouraging active and sustainable forest management or by developing the structure of forest ownership? Or should our decision-makers aim for lower production levels? Finnish Forest Industries believe that the first option would be more beneficial to Finland and Finns.
Promoting active forestry does not simply benefit forest owners or the industry; it can also mitigate climate change and help adjust to its effects. By investing in means increasing forest growth and reforestation, we can also accelerate carbon sequestration in the growing stock. By ending the deforestation of peatlands, we can help retain carbon in the soil as well. The climate roadmap for the forest industry shows that climate action and the competitive strength of the forest industry do not need to be contradictory.
Securing biodiversity is an important theme in the national forest strategy as well. The METSO and Helmi programmes in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland are vitally important projects. A great input-output ratio should be adopted as one of the guidelines in securing biodiversity. Measures should then be targeted at, for example, the rewetting of drained peatland and the restoration of traditional biotopes, groves and sunny slopes. The knowledge needed already exists; now, we only need to adopt a cost-effective approach in the measures of stopping the loss of biodiversity.
The current year is vitally important for national forest policy. At the same time, we are concerned about the state’s incurring of debts. However, the benefit of developing the competitive strength of the forest industry is that the development will incur even more funds for the state. The forest industry and its value chains provide employment and livelihood to nearly 100,000 Finns and create tax revenues of more than EUR 3.5 billion as basis for our social well-being. How would you like these key figures to look like in future years?