HS Environment Up to a third of Finland’s land area must be brought back to its natural state – the EU draft taken over by HS would have a huge impact on cities, forests and agriculture

EU the commission is preparing a major package of laws to gradually tackle climate and natural disasters by 2050.

The new regulation makes nature restoration mandatory. According to it, EU countries must in future ensure that there are trees and green areas in cities, rotting trees and carbon stocks in forests. The abundance of common forest birds – as in Finland, must also be guaranteed.

Helsingin sanomat newspaper The text of the regulation, which has not yet been published, was read, which will bring significant changes to Finland as well.

According to the draft regulation, the provisions binding on Member States apply to all habitats mentioned in the Habitats Directive, from forests, bogs and fells to the Baltic Sea, inland waters and the coast, but also to cities and agricultural areas, for example.

The aim is to gradually restore all areas covered by the EU’s Habitats Directive that have not yet achieved good ecological status.

Habitats Directive Habitats cover a total of more than 12 million hectares, or a third of all of Finland, and a significant part of this is impaired by human activities, says the chairman of the Finnish Nature Panel, professor of ecology Janne Kotiaho To HS.

“By 2030, 30% of areas that have not yet reached good status need to be restored. In this first phase, between one million and two million hectares may be subject to mandatory restoration, ”says Kotiaho.

By 2040, 60% of areas in need of restoration will need to be restored, and by 2050, 90% will need to be restored.

Restoration means, for example, the restoration of nature that has been altered by construction, felling or clearing or other land use.

In future, EU countries must prevent and act on the loss of biodiversity.

“The text includes a ban on weakening. Member States must ensure that the habitats of the habitats and species listed in the Habitats and Birds Directives are no longer degraded, ”says Kotiaho.

The EU Commission justifies the mandatory legislation on the grounds that voluntary guidance has not succeeded in halting the loss of nature.

According to the introductory text of the draft regulation, the EU has failed in its goals of halting the impoverishment of nature and restoring at least 15% of degraded ecosystems by 2020.

“It’s no longer a matter of just felling trees in urban areas.”

In the cities according to the draft regulation, it must be ensured that green spaces and trees do not decrease from the 2021 level.

In addition, the so-called canopy cover must be ensured. At least 10% of the urban area must be covered by tree canopies by 2050.

According to Kotiaho, safeguarding biodiversity in cities is a matter of total non-degradability. If trees are felled in the way of construction, the weakening must be replaced elsewhere.

“It’s no longer a matter of just felling trees in urban areas. They must be replaced by the same number of trees elsewhere. By 2030, urban nature must be restored to return to 2021 levels. After that, green areas and green structures, such as green roofs and green walls, as well as trees must be added, ”Kotiaho interprets the draft regulation.

According to Kotiaho, the text refers to ecological compensation, although this is not mentioned in the draft regulation. Ecological compensation compensates for the harm caused by human activity by increasing biodiversity elsewhere.

According to Kotiaho, the draft Finnish Nature Conservation Act, which is being reformed, contains the rules of the game for ecological compensation:

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Read more: Professor: Compensation for man-made harm to nature should be mandatory

Read more: Lahti is the first city in Finland to try ecological compensation: “We are now doing something that will be necessary in the future”

In the future, cities must take care of the total integrity of nature. If trees are felled in the way of construction, the weakening must be replaced elsewhere. In Pirkkola, Helsinki, trees were felled on the way to the new sports hall in November 2020.

Forests The obligation to restore applies to all forests in general, not just to the habitats and species defined by the EU Habitats and Birds Directives.

According to the draft regulation, forests must be given an ever-improving trend in terms of decaying wood, the age structure of trees, tree density, green corridors, the abundance of common forest bird species and the carbon stock of the soil.

“The number of decaying trees must increase, the age structure of the trees must be diversified, and hummingbirds must be returned to Finnish forests,” Kotiaho lists.

Hömötiainen was the most abundant species in Finnish forests before, but the species has become very endangered.

Forests are the dominant habitat in Finland in terms of diversity, as they have the largest number of species. The majority of endangered species, more than 30 percent, live primarily in forests.

“Now it is worth genuinely considering ways to significantly increase continuous cultivation in forestry. It would contribute to many of these goals, although additional measures are needed to increase the number of rotting trees, for example, ”says Kotiaho.

Peat fields have been given their own share in the EU restoration regulation. They should be disposed of for climatic reasons.

According to the draft regulation, peatlands must be gradually removed from cultivation. In 2050, only 30% of peatlands will be in use. Some can be transferred to wetland cultivation, for example.

In Finland, researchers consider peat fields to be an overwhelmingly effective target for reducing agricultural climate emissions. However, peat fields are only a small part of the arable land.

Greenhouse gas emissions from peatland cultivation are up to seven times higher than from mineral countries. Only one tenth of Finland’s fields are peat fields, but they produce more than half of agricultural emissions.

Read more: Agricultural climate measures have already been supported by billions, but emissions have not decreased

The EU Commission’s proposal for nature restoration legislation is due to be published on 23 March.

The regulation, when it enters into force, will be directly binding on the Member States and will not require new national legislation.

Read more: Researchers: If Finland intends to stick to its own forest targets, current forest management must be revolutionized

Read more: The state’s forests over 120 years of age must be banned from logging, the chairman of the Nature Panel demands: “The state still cuts a lot of its old forests”

Read more: Minister Leppä: Finland decides on its own forests and takes care of their sustainable use

Read more: Minister of the Environment Emma Kari criticizes Metsähallitus’ pledge of information – “State forests are common forests for all Finns”

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