Questions and answers about the climate impact of forests
Why is Tornator launching its own climate program?
The sustainable use of forests plays an important role in mitigating climate change, and we want to be a leader in these efforts. Tornator’s forests are a renewable resource, as well as avoiding fossil-based carbon dioxide emissions and acting as significant carbon sinks. With the help of our climate program, we can take increasingly concrete action to reach our climate-related goals and monitor progress towards meeting them.
How will the climate program improve the current situation?
We have taken good care of the growth capacity of our forests in the past, and now we intend to further increase the amount of carbon sequestration. We employ a variety of means to this end, such as fertilisation and precise targeting of regeneration measures for each area. Thanks to the use of genetically improved seeds and seedling materials, our forests grow even better. In addition, enabling wind power production on our lands is an important way of having a positive impact on the climate.
How can forests be used to combat climate change?
Forests are enormous carbon sinks, sequestering more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than they release. In addition, the use of forests can also replace fossil fuels. The role of forests is thus a great deal more significant than merely acting as a carbon sink.
What forestry measures should be taken to achieve a positive climate impact?
All measures to improve the growth and vitality of forests will increase their level of carbon dioxide sequestration, thus having a positive effect on the climate. Forest growth can be increased through active and timely forest management measures, as well as measures such as the use of genetically improved forest reproductive material and fertilisation of forests. Passive forest ownership leads to a decline in forest growth and increased vulnerability to damage.
How does sustainable use of felling opportunities benefit the climate?
Making full use of sustainable felling opportunities is a sensible approach, as it provides as much renewable raw material as possible for human needs. Failure to make use of felling volumes will not have effects that benefit the climate, because no substitutability effects will be created. If forests were not regenerated at all, there would be reduced growth and carbon sequestration, and they would tend towards reaching their equilibrium, releasing as much carbon dioxide as they would sequester every year. In such cases, forests would become mere carbon stocks and would no longer act as carbon sinks.
To what extent can individual measures such as fertilisation affect carbon sequestration in forests?
Proper targeting of measures and implementing them at the right time are essential in forest management. For example, fertilisation, tending of seedling stands and thinning must be carried on time. Fertilisers are considered to have about a 10-fold positive impact on the climate. This means that the growing stock can sequester 10 times more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than is released into the atmosphere by the production, transportation and application of fertilisers.
A carbon footprint is a measure of the total amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted directly or indirectly as a result of the production of a company’s products or other operations. In general, the carbon footprint is expressed in terms of the total amount of greenhouse gases – that is, kilos of carbon dioxide equivalent (kg CO 2 eq) – and sometimes in terms of carbon dioxide alone (kg CO 2 ).
Carbon handprint and environmental handprint
A carbon handprint is a measure of the positive climate-related impact of a company’s products and services. The basic principle is that reducing a company’s own footprint is not in itself a handprint, but when the use of the company’s products and services reduces the customer’s carbon footprint, the company’s carbon handprint increases accordingly. And when a wider range of environmental impacts are factored in, such as air quality, nutrients, resources and water, the environmental handprint can be calculated.
Carbon neutrality is the condition whereby carbon dioxide emissions are produced no further than the extent to which they can be sequestered from the atmosphere into carbon sinks. To achieve zero carbon dioxide emissions, all global greenhouse gas emissions would have to be recoverable.
A carbon sink is an ecological or mechanical process that removes more carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere than it releases. For example, forests act as ecological carbon sinks, because the process of photosynthesis sequesters carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to produce solid organic matter.
The concept of a carbon sink describes the flow and transformation of carbon from a gaseous state in the atmosphere into a solid form. Carbon sinks are measured by the amount of carbon dioxide they remove from the atmosphere (kg CO 2 eq per year). The amounts of other greenhouse gases, such as methane, are made comparable to carbon dioxide equivalents by the use of coefficients set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The carbon sinks that operate in Finnish forests annually are significant, because the growth of forests sequesters more carbon than is released from them through the use of the forests and natural decomposition. Since 1990, the amount of carbon dioxide sequestration in Finnish forests – that is, the amount of carbon dioxide sequestered from the atmosphere into forest growth – has varied between 22 and 50 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO 2 eq per year). This corresponds to between 30 and 60 per cent of Finland’s total annual emissions.
Carbon sequestration is the process that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Carbon sequestration in forests refers to the ability of the growing stock and soil to sequester carbon. In forests, carbon is sequestered in the growing stock, undergrowth, peat and soil.
The carbon balance of forests refers to the change in their carbon stock on an annual basis. The carbon balance is calculated from the growth of growing stock and the trees harvested during felling, as well as the release of the carbon dioxide that was sequestered in dead wood and soil. If the carbon balance of a forest is positive, the carbon stock of forests will have increased. A negative carbon balance indicates that the carbon stock of the forests has decreased and they have become sources of carbon dioxide emissions.
The carbon stock of forests consists of above-ground and underground biomass in the form of vegetation and carbon sequestered in the soil (in living and dead trees and other plants and their remains). Other carbon stocks include the carbon stock of products made from wood and the geological carbon stock of fossil-based raw materials. Releasing a geological carbon stock into the atmosphere contributes to global warming.
Climate-conscious forestry entails increasing the amount of carbon sequestration and carbon storage through forestry measures. Among these measures are fertilisation, reforestation forest regeneration using genetically improved seeds or seedlings, reforestation as soon as possible after felling, and reforestation and afforestation of low-yielding forests.
Carbon storage can be increased through the use of practices for managing forested peatlands and environmental remediation of low-yielding drained marshland.
Complying with the principle of sustainability requires ensuring that future generations have as good or better opportunities for action as current generations have. In sustainable forestry, forests are used and managed in such a way as to safeguard the sufficiency of forest resources and biodiversity and to mitigate climate change. The aim is to promote the wellbeing of forests, the rest of nature, the climate and humanity. Sustainability is a holistic concept: it includes economic, ecological, social and cultural sustainability.
Economic sustainability requires that forest management be profitable, and that forests provide at least as good earning opportunities in the future. Forests are used on a long-term basis, keeping current and future felling opportunities in mind.
Ecological sustainability can be ensured in various ways, such as by maintaining forest biodiversity, caring for important habitats, protecting endangered species, and avoiding environmentally harmful emissions where possible.
Social sustainability involves ensuring that forests remain available for many different purposes, including the Finnish “everyman’s rights” for anyone to pick berries and mushrooms freely provided they respect the forest, and forest-related jobs and operations in the future. Cultural sustainability involves respecting traditions and existing rights.
In Finland, the forest certification systems of two organisations are followed: the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). About 90 per cent of Finland’s forests are PEFC-certified, and the remainder are FSC-certified. Forest certification indicates that the forests in question are used responsibly and sustainably.
Most forests in Finland are uniformly coniferous or deciduous forests. Forests are classified as mixed forests – forests with multiple tree species – if the predominant tree species accounts for less than three-quarters of the number of stems per hectare. The growth stock to be grown can vary in size.
These positive effects are called substitutability effects. The term ‘substitutability’ in this context refers to the use of a material made from wood or energy derived from wood to replace some other material or energy source.”
Climate-sustainable management of peatland forests
Because peatland forests sequester very large amounts of carbon, to curb climate change it is essential that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases remain stored in the peat. In the management of swamp forests in a way that is sustainable in terms of the climate, the goal is to secure the growth of the growing stock and prevent the rapid decomposition of peat by regulating the water level.
Nature management of commercial forests
The purpose of nature management measures for commercial forests is to safeguard biodiversity and water purity, and to take into account the landscape and the multiple other uses of forests. In this way, nature conservation creates the necessary conditions for biodiversity in commercial forests, clean waters, and other ecosystem services. In forest management areas, biodiversity is promoted by preserving and adding structural features that are important for it. Among these features are old and large trees, large decaying trees, and deciduous trees of low forestry value. The most common means of safeguarding and promoting biodiversity in forest management areas are leaving stands of retention trees as they are, preserving decaying wood, and maintaining deciduous tree mixtures and thickets that are important for game animals, amongst other things.