Environment Only the first installment of the forest dispute has been seen: the EU Commission will go deeper and deeper into forest management next

The provisions of the next stage are intended, among other things, to improve biodiversity. If the forest owner wants to meet the requirements, part of the forest would have to be excluded from economic use according to the Draft Proposal.


In Finland the government has drifted into bad controversy On the environmental classification of investment targets issued by the EU Commission, which the Finnish government intends to oppose in a decisive EU vote in the coming weeks.

However, this is not the end of the debate, as this is only the Commission’s first set of provisions. There will be more criteria for forestry that promotes biodiversity.

This, too, may prove to be a painful issue in Finland, as Finland has already had to justify its intensive forestry based on deforestation in Europe.

The drafts for the second batch are already in place and, given their content, even tougher twists can be expected. They will take place around the summer of 2022.

There is a perception in Finland that forests and their management should be left to the discretion of Finns, but this seems to be becoming increasingly difficult.

As an EU member, Finland is involved in joint measures to combat climate change, beyond which it is impossible to leave forests.

Read more: Big dispute over EU forest regulation in government: Center plans to vote with opposition if government decides to support regulation

Environmental classification in other words, the taxonomy means that the Commission provides funders and investors with a definition of which investment targets and projects are climate-sustainable. The aim is to get capital to flow into sustainable projects so that the EU can meet its climate goals.

The EU countries adopted a taxonomy regulation as a basis for the guidelines in June last year, and at the same time empowered the EU Commission to adopt more detailed provisions through so-called delegated regulations.

In the first installment of the regulation, the Commission set out rules for assessing the ability of investments to mitigate or adapt to climate change.

In another, only in a draft proposal environmental targets are also created for investment targets or transactions. These include the sustainable use and protection of water resources, the transition to a circular economy, the prevention of environmental pollution and the protection and restoration of biodiversity.

The investment must make a significant contribution to one or more of the environmental objectives and must not cause significant harm to any of them.

Biodiversity through which the Commission’s additional provisions will be closely linked to forests. Overall, the second setting is very broad, with forests being only one part of it.

I did the groundwork “Platform”, a group of technical experts set up by the Commission according to Europe, the diversity of forests is deteriorating alarmingly. Therefore, according to the group, the impact of logging on natural depletion should be curbed while improving the diversity of treated forests.

The group points out that more than 90 per cent of Finnish forests have received a PEFC certificate for sustainable forest management, “and yet 76 per cent of forest nature in Finland is now endangered and 21 per cent is almost endangered”. This information comes from Finnish research.

Among other things, the group suggests that 20% of the forest area should be excluded from economic use in order to achieve biodiversity targets. In the case of so-called continuous forestry, the recommendation is more lenient, ie 10% of the forest area would suffice.

“The funniest thing is that if a forest owner were to exclude 20 percent from economic use and there were a lot of restrictions anyway, then the growth of forests would start to decline pretty quickly. There would be destruction and rotting wood, which could be good for some species, but then we would lose carbon sequestration, ”says the forest director of MTK, which represents forest owners. Marko Mäki-Hakola.

“Wood will definitely go on sale, but of course there’s talk of price.”

When felling, 30 adult trees per hectare or 10 percent of the trees should be left in the forest, which is more than the current Finnish requirements. When felling, logs and stumps, among other things, should not be removed from the forest.

In particular, the working group proposes extensive protection areas for rivers where trees could not be felled in order to meet biodiversity conservation requirements.

“This is not about sanctions or obligations, but if you want to invest in these things, there is a tool here,” says a leading forestry expert. Mai Suominen WWF.

Suominen does not believe that it would be difficult for a forest owner to sell his wood if he does not comply with the taxonomic criteria.

“Wood is sure to go on sale, but of course there’s talk of price. If the responsibility criteria are met, then hopefully more will be paid for the wood. ”

Performances are therefore only a draft requested by the Commission from an expert group. The draft, which was published in July, has now been the subject of an open consultation in the autumn, and based on the feedback, the group is preparing a final report on the text.

After this, the EU Commission enters the picture, which begins to write the actual regulation on the basis of expert work. It is likely to be released in the summer of 2022.

Member States will then be able to express their views on the second stage regulation. If Finland wants changes to the content of the regulation, this is the last minute to take effect.

Once the Commission publishes the delegated regulation, the Member State can only accept or reject it.

Usually the commission is a preparatory and legislative body, but it exercises considerable decision-making power when it adopts regulations.

However, the Member States and the European Parliament can only blame themselves for this, as they themselves gave the Commission the power to make a more precise environmental classification.

“We are used to the fact that a strong Commission is the security of a small member state. Now it has turned the other way. Veika’s big countries will soon wake up to the fact that the Commission is on a dangerous path, ”says Mäki-Hakola.

Read more: Visiting Commissioner Mairead McGuinness: Brussels does not say what Finland must do for its forests

Read more: Finland is in a take-it-or-leave-it situation with regard to EU forest guidelines – dissenting government to decide its position in the coming weeks

What taxonomy?

  • The EU is currently working on rules for the environmental classification of investments, also known as taxonomy.

  • The purpose is to create guidelines to help investors determine which investment target is green and which is not. The aim is to get more private capital for climate action. Investors are also looking for sustainable properties and expect better returns from them than from climate-weaker properties.

  • EU countries adopted the so-called taxonomy regulation as early as June 2020. At the same time, they empowered the Commission to issue separate regulations defining precise criteria for the sustainability of projects and investments.

  • The Commission has already adopted the first regulation, which the Finnish government opposes because of its forest rules.

  • There will be another regulation defining, among other things, which projects are environmentally sustainable.

  • The Commission will also shortly outline whether nuclear power and natural gas can be classified as sustainable.

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