Finland has proposed to the EU relaxing of rules for aid to environmentally harmful hydropower
The Minister of Finance, Matti Vanhanen, will meet several commissioners to discuss the easing of classification criteria, for the benefit of hydropower and forestry, in the EU’s sustainable development funding. It is the opinion of The Finnish Association for Nature Conservation that loosening of the criteria would enable environmentally damaging aid. This is in conflict with the “do not harm” principle of the EU fund.
The Finnish Association for Nature Conservation head of conservation, Tapani Veistola, would like to state that the time for building hydropower stations in Western Europe is over.
“There is only one large hydropower project in Finland, which is Sierilä on the river Kemi in Rovaniemi, but this has become stuck with legal issues. Finland has moved on to dismantling dams and building bypass channels and fish ladders, such as in the government’s Nousu-programme. The lobbying for hydropower funding in the EU is in conflict with the government’s own actions.”
State-owned enterprise Kemijoki Oy has planned to build a 44-megawatt power station at Sieriniemi in river Kemi since the 1950’s. The new power station would be in conflict with the conservation of several species protected by the EU Habitats directive. For this reason, the company has had to apply for special permission to destroy the occurrence of those endangered species. The power station would flood the shores and rapids of the remaining free-flowing main channel of the river Kemi with an artificial lake.
“Finland does not need the Sierilä power station, which is a questionable project in relation to the environmental regulations of the EU and Finland. State-owned company Kemijoki Oy should give up the project and instead invest in establishing bypass channels and environmental flows in the river’s 16 other power stations,” says Virpi Sahi, the head of the project team in The Finnish Association for Nature Conservation.
Tapani Veistola points out that looser funding for hydropower stations would be significantly destructive in Balkan countries, where they are also campaigning for the protection of free-flowing waterways from new hydropower stations.
Finland is also trying to loosen the EU funding restrictions for forestry projects. However, the biggest reason for the plight of forest habitat is current forestry practice.
The EU has created the classification system purely to define what kind of investment would be sustainable from an environmental perspective. For investors, the criteria should make sustainable funding decisions easier and help in the comparison of different investment options. The system is based upon the EU’s classification system directive for sustainable funding, the so-called taxonomy regulation.
The European Commission is currently preparing lower-level legislation that will define technical level criteria, linked to climate change, for certain sectors and different economic functions. The Commission will publish the criteria for lower-level legislation in April and that legislation will start to apply from the start of 2022.
Video “Kemijoki: Seeing the future” in YouTube (2 min 30 sec)
Video shows the location of projected Sierilä hydropower station and how it would flood the shores and rapids of the remaining free-flowing main channel of the river Kemi with an artificial lake.
For more information:
- Mr. Tapani Veistola, The head of conservation, Finnish Association for Nature Conservation, tel. +358 40 061 5530, email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mrs. Virpi Sahi, the head of the project team, Finnish Association for Nature Conservation tel. +358 50 3082457, email email@example.com