Letter to the President of the European Commission
Ursula von der Leyen
President of the European Commission
we, the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation, write to you as we are deeply concerned about Finland’s forest policies and their inability to secure the fulfillment of EU and national targets on nature and climate. The Prime Ministers of Finland and Sweden sent to you a letter assuring that the important functions of forests are best preserved through national practices and know-how.
We must disagree with the prime ministers as history is proving otherwise. Finland’s national forest policies have led to
- 76 percent of Finland’s forest habitats being threatened.
- The majority of the threatened species (31 %) live in forests.
- The logging of the last remaining old-growth forests and forests with high conservation values still continues – even in state-owned lands.
- Darkening of fresh waters due to harvesting practices on organic soils.
- Logging levels that are record high. Logging levels have been expected to increase further in the coming years as wood imports from Russia ceased in 2022, a giant new pulp mill opened in Kemi in 2023 and demand for wood biomass energy increases.
- Burning forest biomass at record high level. According to the Finnish Environment Institute the largest harmful tax expenditure for climate in Finland is the tax exemption for wood fuels.
- Decreasing forest growth for the first time in recorded history.
- The forest carbon sink collapsing. During the last decade (2012–2021) Finland’s land-use sector has turned from a relatively large carbon sink into a net source in 2021, marking a dramatic shift. In 2022 forest harvesting levels remained high and the net sink remained near level zero.
- Finland’s net emissions returning to the same level as in 1990 despite the reduction in fossil fuel use.
Finland’s independent scientific panels on climate and nature have both warned that increasing loggings would further threaten Finland’s climate and biodiversity goals. Already in 2017 a group of 68 scientists warned Finnish decision makers of the negative climate and nature impacts of the planned increases in logging levels.
Even the Annual Climate Report 2023 recognizes the need for additional measures to meet climate targets:
“If no further measures are taken in the land use sector, Finland is not likely to
achieve the EU commitments under the LULUCF Regulation without buying emission credits from other Member States. Achieving the national climate neutrality target requires further measures in the land use sector and other sectors.”
Despite this Petteri Orpo’s government is cutting funds from measures like paludiculture, reforesting and forest conservation, which would have helped to increase the net sink.
Finns expect their government to act strongly on climate and nature protection. 80 percent of Finns want more nature protection areas, 64 percent of Finns would protect old growth forests immediately, 53 percent want to reduce harvesting levels and climate and biodiversity are regarded as the most important aspects to consider in decision-making related to forests.
The voice of the public is however not reflected in national policies. Thus Finnish people benefit from strong EU steering in climate and biodiversity policies concerning forests. It is crucial that Finland implements the EU biodiversity strategy fully to address both climate and biodiversity targets. Policymakers also need to listen to scientists that have outlined a number of new measures and shown a moderate reduction of harvesting levels would help to save the net LULUCF sink.
We hope the Commission makes sure governance and implementation of existing EU legislation is robust and the EU continues to develop policies aligned with 1,5 degrees temperature limit and reversing biodiversity loss.
We warmly welcome you to visit Finland’s forests and see the destruction to nature, climate and fresh waters with your own eyes.
President of the Board
Hanna Aho, Climate Policy Officer, +358 40 628 9495, hanna.aho(a)sll.fi
Paloma Hannonen, Head of Environment, +358 50 5323 219, paloma.hannonen(a)sll.fi
Ilmastoasiantuntija (mm. ilmastolaki, hiilinielut, hiilikompensaatio, ympäristölle haitalliset tuet, bioenergian kestävyys) Hanna Aho
- +358 40 628 9495