Key researchers unanimous on the climate impacts of forests use

Decision-makers, the media and the public have felt that there are contradictory messages on the climate impacts of the forest use. A new report by the Finnish Climate Change Panel illustrates that key Finnish researchers specialising in forestry are quite unanimous on the central claims related to the sustainability of bioeconomy. Discourse between researchers, decision-makers and enterprises, and the related advanced analyses are still necessary for creating a sustainable bioeconomy.

The Finnish Climate Change Panel surveyed researchers’ insights on the climate change impacts of forest use. Responses were assessed and processed by 28 researchers from the University of Helsinki, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, the University of Eastern Finland, the University of Jyväskylä, the Finnish Environment Institute and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. The process included a joint seminar, two enquiry rounds related to claims, and approval of the document.

The main claims approved by researchers:

  • It is possible to increase wood production with forest management, but it is not possible to significantly increase the net growth of stem wood in the next decades. A significant increase can only be expected in the 2050s and after.
  • Increasing logging and wood harvesting will decrease the carbon sink and carbon storage of Finnish forests for at least forthcoming decades compared to a situation where harvesting is not increased.
  • The greatest climate benefit of wood use can be achieved with long-lasting wood-based products that preserve the carbon content of the wood in use for a long time and replace products that have a high-emission life cycle impact.
  • In the long term, replacing fossil fuels with forest energy will create climate benefits if fossil fuels are permanently replaced, forest lands are maintained and the growth of forests remains unchanged or increases in the future.
  • The model calculations representing the future development of Finnish forests produced to aid political decision-making should be completed with information such as analyses describing the different projected paths of climate change.
  • The goals set for the different ways of using forests – such as wood production, carbon sequestration, conservation and recreational use – compete with each other, so it is unlikely that these goals will be reached simultaneously.
  • A significant increase in forest harvests may lead to a clear deterioration of the forest biodiversity unless the matter is taken into account sufficiently with the practices of forest management and the forest conservation network.

According to the Climate Change Panel, the result provides a good basis for national and international discussion on the role of Nordic forests in EU policy on climate and bioeconomy. The climate-smart use of forests is an important part of creating a low-carbon economy. So that the path will be consistent and sustainable, bioeconomy decisions must be based on scientific data.

Report: Main Messages from researchers concerning the climate impacts of forest utilization

Further information

Professor Jyri Seppälä, member of the Climate Change Panel, Finnish Environment Institute, tel. +358 295 251 629,

Professor Markku Kanninen, member of the Climate Change Panel, University of Helsinki, tel. +358 294 158 133,

Professor Antti Asikainen, member of the Climate Change Panel, Natural Resources Institute of Finland, tel. +358 295 323 250,

Postdoctoral researcher Tuomo Kalliokoski, University of Helsinki, tel. +358 50 448 7536,

Researchers who participated in assessing the statements

Ekholm, Tommi (VTT)
Leskinen, Pekka (SYKE)
Repo, Anna (SYKE/JYU)
Hynynen Jari (Luke)
Lindroos, Tomi (VTT)
Salminen, Olli (Luke)
Ilvesniemi, Hannu (Luke)
Lintunen, Jussi (Luke)
Sievänen, Risto (Luke)
Kallio, Maarit (Luke)
Liski, Jari (Metrological Institute)
Soimakallio, Sampo (SYKE)
Kilpeläinen, Antti (UEF)
Mäkelä, Annikki (UH)
Sokka, Laura (VTT)
Koponen, Kati (VTT)
Peltola, Heli (UEF)
Venäläinen, Ari (Metrological Institute)
Lehtonen, Aleksi (Luke)
Pukkala, Timo (UEF)
Vesala, Timo (UH)

Preparation group

Asikainen, Antti (Luke)
Kanninen, Markku (UH)
Kalliokoski, Tuomo (UH)
Koskela, Sirkka (SYKE)
Routa, Johanna (Luke)
Ratinen, Ilkka (JYU)
Seppälä, Jyri (SYKE)