Finnish forests may be calculated as sources for carbon after Copenhagen
One model for calculations in climate change negotiations would cause one thousand million euros’ loss for Finnish forestry sector - over half of annual logging revenues. (LULUCF)
Forests’ role on climate change will be discussed more thoroughly than previously in the UN conference on climate change in Copenhagen in December. Finland participates these negotiations as a part of the European Union.
Traditionally Finns have considered that since the growth of the country’s forests is larger than the removals, the amount of timber, as well as the amount of carbon sequestered in this timber is growing. And, because this carbon is sequestered from atmosphere, it means that Finnish forests decrease the amount of carbon dioxide in atmosphere.
Thus, Finnish forests are a sink of carbon. Because the growth of the forests decreases the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, they mitigate the climate change, which should be credited in the climate change negotiations.
However, this is not the only way to consider this issue. The model favoured by Finns is called the gross-net model in climate change negotiations.
Another model is net-net model. The basis of this model is a reference year, and the carbon balance is then compared to the balance of this reference year. If the sequestration of carbon is larger than in the reference year, the forests could be considered as sink, but if the sequestration was smaller, forests would be considered as source of carbon – although the amount of carbon in the forests were increasing also during the year in question.
The reference level could be also an average of more than one year.
There exists a model for almost everyone
Another model called bar model was developed from net-net model by making it more flexible. In this model, the amount of carbon sequestered would have to decrease at least by a predetermined amount before any penalties would be applicable.
Respectively, a sink should not be credited at once, but when a certain level would be reached. Or, as they say in the negotiations, a “band” is created around the reference level, and sources and sinks were noticed only if they are outside this band. This model is presented by the European Union.
According to some negotiators the band could exist on both sides of the reference level – “symmetrically”, as they say – or “asymmetrically”, which would mean that a decreasing sink would not be penalized.
In addition to this there is a model suggested by Canada, where sources and sinks were not compared to a standing reference level, but to a business as usual scenario – which would pay attention to natural disasters as well.
And in the end, the model created in the Kyoto climate change meeting in 1997 exists as well. It takes only the land use changes into consideration, but in agriculture and urban areas as well.
As to the models, everything is open as yet. Nothing is excluded and the target is to find ways to combine the features of different models.
In the end the bill may be large
The results of the calculations differ very much from a country to another. For example, the gross-net model would make the Finnish forests clearly a sink during all evaluated periods. On the other hand, the result of the net-net model without any flexibility would depend on the reference year.
It the reference year is 1990 – as often is the case in climate change negotiations – Finnish forests would be considered as source of carbon during the first evaluation period, but after that as a sink.
But also the average balance of 2005 and 2006 is suggested as the reference level. In this case Finnish forests were considered as a very large source of carbon: during the two last evaluation periods the emission would present over ten million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, and during the first period more that 18 million tonnes annually (see here).
One of the principles of the climate change negotiations is that one should pay for the emissions created. This naturally means that if the forestry was considered to create emissions of carbon, it must pay for them as well.
According to evaluations the prices for emission rights are 15–60 euros per carbon dioxide tonne. Taking the net-net model with reference years of 2005 and 2006 the payments of the Finnish forestry sector would be at least 600 million, but at highest over one thousand million euros annually.
This is not a small sum, taken into consideration that the logging revenues of Finnish family forestry have normally been some 1.5 thousand million euros annually.
The situation varies in different countries
The reason behind different standpoints is due to the fact that the situations vary as well. For example, it is very difficult to increase sinks for those countries, which have large forest area and sustainable forestry. This is why these countries often favour the gross-net model.
Some other countries – including some industrialised countries – are able to easily increase the sinks when compared to certain reference years by, for example, reforestation. This is why the net-net model is favourable for these countries.
Some other countries try to compensate the industry’s carbon emissions by land use changes. This is not, however, possible for the members of the European Union, because of the common target of negotiations.
In addition to all, one should also remember the final target: mitigating the climate change. In order to do this, the European Union, for example, has special targets for bioenergy use.
To reach them it would be beneficial to use wood energy. It can not, however, be accomplished without loggings. But they may be impossible, if a net-net model is approved of and the sink of reference year is small or plain zero.
Issued by: Forest.Fi
Author: Hannes Mäntyranta
Issue date: October 13, 2009
Link to Article: Origin of text