Finland to protect forest industry against EU norms

Source: Xinhua| 2017-07-25 05:41:00|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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HELSINKI, July 24 (Xinhua) -- While real forest fires have not been a problem this summer in Finland, Finnish Economic Development Minister Mika Lintila has been trying hard over the weekend to extinguish a fire caused by looming EU restrictions on forest industry.

The European Parliament Environmental Committee decided recently that the use of forest should remain at the level of 2000-2012. The proposal discourages Finnish plans that envisage a much higher level of usage.

Currently, there are several major biomass and pulp plant projects in Finland that still await final go-ahead by the investors, who are pinning their hope on the expansion of the forest sector.

Contributing 20 percent of the Finnish GDP, the forest industry is playing a key role in the economic strategy of the Finnish government. The government has planned to increase the use of forest by 30 percent by 2030.

Talking on national broadcaster Yle late Sunday, Lintila said he still did not believe the committee's view would emerge as the final EU stand. "But if that would happen, Finland would purchase forest usage rights from countries that would be willing to sell them", he said.

Lintila said the impact of the envisaged increased cutdown of forests on the Finnish GDP would amount to seven or eight billion euros, whereas the purchase of forest usage rights would be ten or twenty million euros only.

However, the idea of using tax money to assure the availability of raw material has not been met with unanimous acceptance in the country.

Heidi Hautala, a Member of the European Parliament from the Green Party, told Yle that the direction of the EU climate policy may not have been understood in Finland. Hautala said she does not understand why tax payers' money should be used to purchase the usage rights.

"Public funding should be used for real innovative investments instead, such as replacing plastic with wood based substance", Hautala demanded.

Hautala said the investments that Finland now tries to allure would lose their competitive edge along the change in climate policy.

Liisa Jaakonsaari, a Member of the European Parliament from the Social Democratic Party, told Yle that Finns perceived the EU committee view as unjust on the grounds that Finland has taken good care of its forests. But Jaakonsaari implied that the current enthusiasm about biofuels may encounter with difficulties in the future.

Sirpa Pietikainen, a conservative party MEP, said that the EU committee view was not presented "just to annoy Finland". "We have now such a shortage of time to fight against the climate change," Pietikainen noted.

The EU has committed itself to reducing emissions by 40 percent by 2030. Final decisions on the dimension of forests as carbon sinks are to be taken later this year.