Finland facing massive EU fine over deforestation
Helsinki's ambitious aspirations to become carbon-neutral by 2035 are at risk.
Due to the clearing and drying of peatlands, Finland's land use sector has changed from being a carbon sink to a net source of emissions.
The change has been dubbed a "national emergency" by concerned experts and cast serious doubt on the country's aspirations to achieve climate neutrality by 2035.
According to a recent assessment by Finland's Natural Resource Institute, the Nordic country might be hit with a heavy fine of up to billions of euros if it fails to fulfill the EU's net carbon sink objective.
Data reveals that the Finnish land use sector, which is mostly commercial forest, shifted from being a carbon sink to a net source of emissions, as logging activities continue, peatlands dry up. The carbon sink of forests was more than halved as a result of intensifying felling and slowing growth.
The director of the Center for Sustainable Consumption and Production at the Finnish Environment Institute, Professor Jyri Seppala, minced no words when he called the current situation a “national emergency.”
Finland will need to pay monetary compensation depending on the exact extent of the carbon sink collapse. The amount ranges up to 160 million tons of carbon dioxide emitted that would otherwise have been trapped by Finnish forests.
Based on that, the country might be charged up to 7 billion euros ($7.4 billion) if a net decrease in atmospheric greenhouse emissions is not achieved. It was thought "highly unlikely" that there would be any need to provide compensation at all.
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Depending on their GDP levels and their carbon sink baseline at the beginning of this century, various countries have varying targets. Finland's ambitious aspirations to become carbon-neutral by 2035 would be put in jeopardy if its carbon sink collapsed, which would also cause a devastating financial loss.
Meanwhile, researchers have issued dire warnings about the unsustainable nature of its forestry before. Traditionally, forests have been a major source of economic well-being in Finland, and forestry remains one of the key industries in the Nordic country.
Seven out of ten Finns come from families that own land, and forestry accounts for about one-seventh of Finland's export earnings.