I recently took up the new post of Senior Vice President, Climate and Circular Economy, after spending a couple of years in the tissue and greaseproof papers business. Over those two years, the debate on climate issues has both increased and changed. The extreme phenomena caused by global warming are constantly in the news, while the debate on the matter has heated up considerably. It is therefore no surprise that many people are suffering from climate anxiety and expect changes.
Carbon dioxide is by far the most significant greenhouse gas produced by human beings, and the vast majority of it derives from the use of fossil fuels, such as oil, coal and natural gas. The world’s mean temperature has risen by around one degree since pre-industrial times. The rate of increase has been particularly fast since World War II, and the goal is now to stop the warming at 1.5 degrees. This is indeed necessary, because the consequences of climate change are unpredictable. It is also worth noting that the mean temperature of Finland and other countries in the north is rising twice as much as the figure for the whole world.
Climate change mitigation must, above all, focus on effectiveness, which is why the reduction of fossil fuel use plays a key role. Europe has already been able to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Finland wants to set an example and produce solutions for the market, which is also why it has set itself the ambitious goal of being a carbon neutral society by 2035.
Most of Metsä Group’s fossil-based carbon dioxide emissions are generated by its production units. We have therefore set ourselves the goal of fossil-free mills by 2030, a goal already achieved by the Äänekoski bioproduct mill. The development has been good in other respects as well over the last ten years, given that our fossil-based emissions per product tonne have nearly halved thanks to new technologies, an increase in the share of bioenergy and improved energy efficiency. If, for example, the Kemi bioproduct mill is realised, it will take Metsä Group another good leap forward.
Reducing the carbon emissions generated by transport is more difficult. The only way to collect wood from forests is by truck, and Finland’s geographical location means that the finished products are shipped abroad by sea. These are issues that we need to tackle in cooperation with our partners.
In addition to reducing emissions, carbon dioxide can be sequestered from the atmosphere and stored. Active forest management is important for ensuring the well-being of forests and their capacity to store carbon dioxide as they grow. At the same time, we must find new ways to safeguard biodiversity. Carbon can also be stored in wood-based products. In wood construction, carbon is stored for a long period. Packaging paperboards and greaseproof papers typically have a shorter lifespan, but they can replace materials that are made from fossil fuels such as plastic. We are also developing new solutions, such as plastic-free eco-barrier paperboards with a barrier against moisture and grease, and a new technology for the production of wood-based textile fibres. Sustainable forest management and a sustainable forest industry represent an essential part of Finnish well-being as well as a climate solution. It’s great to be involved in this work again.