Metsä Group organised a roundtable event with the theme "Growth of bioeconomy and the sustainability of natural resources" to hear the views of various players in bioeconomy. Sustainable bioeconomy is a common interest as is the understanding of the amount and use of Finnish forest resources and importance of cascade use of wood. The state of forest biodiversity and its future sparked a debate.
Metsä Group organised a roundtable event for the second time to hear the key players of the bioeconomy. Finnish ministries, research institutions and nature conservation associations attended the event. After inspiring introductions conversations were lively.
Bioeconomy spearhead projects of the Finnish Government
The forest industry has a positive problem, according to Juha Niemelä, the Director General of Natural Resources Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry: trees grow more than they are used, but the topical question is, how to get the wood mobilised and to use. Niemelä stressed that the bioeconomy is one of the government's spearhead projects. The project takes into account the bioeconomy as a whole meaning both the economic value-creation, well-being and the sustainable use of forests.
Industrial use of wood in the north, incineration in the south
Director Petteri Pihlajamäki from Pöyry Management Consulting gave a presentation about global forest sector and Finland's strengths in it. According to him, the Finnish model for forest ownership and use is unique because family-based ownership brings the best value and the most well-being to the society. Pihlajamäki said that the wood for industrial use comes from northern coniferous forests and from plantations in the southern hemisphere. Eucalyptus fibre from the plantations is used industrially. However, a very significant part of the southern wood goes to firewood.
"The use of wood is most effective in the north, where the side streams are already utilised effectively, and new solutions are being developed," said Pihlajamäki. He also noted that major bioinnovations come from the north.
The NGOs call for greater consideration of biodiversity
Acting Executive Director of The Finnish Association for Nature Conservation Leo Stranius called for more product development and innovation, cascade use of wood, and securing forest biodiversity. Stranius proposed, for example, returning the nature conservation financing to the 2015 level, increasing the level of decayed wood in the forests, correcting the forest and forest damage law as well as giving up clear cutting. According to him, biodiversity must be taken into account also in the production of bioenergy.
Also WWF Finland's Secretary General Liisa Rohweder called for better consideration of biodiversity, but praised Metsä Group's resource-wise way in producing bioenergy from production side streams instead of industrial wood. "Valuable wood shouldn't be used directly for the production of fuels but primarily to higher value-added products," outlined Rohweder.
Hoping for effective bioeconomy market
Finnish member of the European Parliament Henna Virkkunen had a clear message: "Of all the EU countries, forestry is most important for Finland. However, it would be very important for the whole European bioeconomy to operate under market conditions."
According to Virkkunen, there are no ongoing investments in Europe to energy without a variety of subsidies.
On the other hand, the use of forests stimulate discussion; in the EU many don't know that forestry can be sustainable.
Discussions after presentations were lively. Forest Director Tomi Salo of the Finnish Forest Industries Federation pointed out that the improvement in biodiversity is linked to the change processes of forests. "In Finland, the processes are known to be slow, and therefore also the improvement in biodiversity is slow."
Executive Vice President of Metsä Forest Juha Mäntylä said that "certification is a good way to show sustainable forest management and the need for certification is market-based. It also highlights biodiversity."
Executive Vice President of Research at Natural Resources Institute Finland Johanna Buchert reminded that forests need constant management and use. "A worrying example of the fate of the forests has been seen in Canada, where insect damage and forest fires have done a lot of damage."
The roundtable event was hosted by Metsä Fibre's CEO Ilkka Hämälä and Metsä Group's Sustainability and Corporate Affairs SVP Riikka Joukio.
Other participants were:
Paloma Hannonen, Protection Expert, Finnish Association for Nature Conservation
Päivi Janka, Government Counsellor, Energy Department, Ministry of Employment and the Economy
Marja Kokkonen, Government Counsellor of Forestry, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
Maarit Loiskekoski, Counsellor, Ministry of the Environment
Raisa Mäkipää, Research Scientist, Research at Natural Resources Institute
Karoliina Niemi, Manager, EU forest issues, Finnish Forest Industries
Jussi Nikula, Head of Ecological Footprint Programme, WWF Finland
Timo Tanninen, Director General, Department of the Natural Environment, Ministry of the Environment
The event was moderated by Jarno Forssell, Senior Advisor, Pohjoisranta Burson-Marsteller