Europe needs a bioeconomy
European state forest managers in Rovaniemi: Europe needs a bioeconomy
The annual conference of the European State Forest Association EUSTAFOR organised by Metsähallitus in Rovaniemi on 11–12 June 2015 was attended by more than 130 forest professionals representing 22 member organisations of EUSTAFOR. This year, stakeholders from outside the EUSTAFOR family interested in the bioeconomy had also been invited to the conference.
In his opening speech, Esa Härmälä, Director General of Metsähallitus, pointed out to the importance of natural resources. Mitigating climate change, developing a circular economy and promoting sustainable development all require that fossil fuels be replaced with renewable energy sources. Forests are the most important natural resource both in Finland and other European countries, and thus represent a huge opportunity.
Currently, bioeconomy is a hot topic, and state forest organisations managing one third of forests in Europe cannot avoid participating in the discussion. Contrary to opposing views, forests in Europe grow well and are in good condition. According to Professor Pekka Kauppi, the growth of forests exceeds their use on a permanent basis in Europe, and the same positive trend is also starting to be visible in other parts of the world. The sufficiency of forests is thus not a factor limiting the European bioeconomy, but it is a strength for Europe.
Kimmo Tiilikainen, the new Finnish Minister of Agriculture and the Environment, said that he would like to see more investment and growth in the Finnish mechanical forest industry like the Äänekoski bioproduct mill. In his view, achieving the target of a high degree of processing requires research and development investments in the bioeconomy. In addition, action by the State is necessary. However, finding resources for R&D investments in the bioeconomy will not be easy in the current economic situation, said Minister Tiilikainen.
In his speech, Nils Torvalds, Member of the European Parliament and its chief negotiator on legislation relating to the sustainability of biofuels, pointed out that the consensus reached on the sustainability criteria of biofuels in the EU in the spring was a weak compromise. In his view, Europe will lose its position as a forerunner if it is unable to agree on the development of and support for new and innovative biofuels.
Nils Torvalds thinks that a new approach is needed in the development of bioeconomy and biofuels. Instead of an ethical perspective, bioeconomy should be approached from a practical and technological perspective. The EU must allow its more advanced Member States, such as Finland, to continue their work on the development of bioeconomy which has been given a good start. We should proceed at the rate of the strongest pupils rather than that of the weakest, Nils Torvalds pointed out.
Next year the EUSTAFOR conference will be organised by the Forestry Commission in the Lake District in England. This year’s conference material is available on the conference website at http://www.eustaforconference2015.eu/gallery/.
For further information, please contact:
Kristiina Vuopala, Communications Officer, tel. +358 205 64 7695
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