Published on : Friday, November 17, 2017
The European Union is preparing new energy and land use legislation to fulfil its commitments to the Paris climate agreement. The legislative proposals touch very much upon the interests of the forest industry, which is currently developing new bio-based products.
“In Finland, you are opening a new chapter in biotech by using forests and forestry residues in an innovative way for bio-based industry and renewable energy,” said Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission, during his Energy Union tour in Finland in October.
Vice-President Šefčovič visited together with Finnish MEPs Miapetra Kumpula-Natri and Heidi Hautala to see the UPM Kaukas site, including UPM’s Lappeenranta Biorefinery, and then into the city of Lappeenranta to debate EU energy policy and the new legislative proposals.
Šefčovič praised UPM as the leader of the wood processing industry that is continuously looking for innovations in how to utilise renewable raw material.
“It is impressive to see the size of the company in various business areas and how UPM is thinking over the horizon by using their high quality engineering and research work for developing new technologies for the bio-based industry. New innovations are really taking off in the form of the ‘hockey stick curve’ here.” Maroš added further.
UPM´s CEO Jussi Pesonen welcomed the visitors at the UPM R&D Center and urged the EU authorities to promote and ensure a stable legal framework for companies.
“We are making investments for the 20 to 30-year perspective. To be able to develop biotechnology and the bioeconomy further we need a clear long term vision on regulation. Our investments are capital intensive so we cannot afford to fail in our decisions,” Maroš concluded.
Currently EU institutions are discussing the Renewable Energy Directive for 2021-2030. To fulfil the Paris climate agreement commitments the EU and national authorities have set very ambitious CO2 emission reduction targets.
“In our energy package proposal, we are promoting advanced biofuels made of wood residuals and waste while decreasing the proportion of food and crop based biofuels,” says Šefčovič.
For advanced biofuels, the Commission is targeting up to 6.8% of overall fuel consumption, which will necessitate substantial investment in new technologies utilising non-food raw materials.
Ensuring sustainable harvesting
The other topic is the so-called LULUCF (land use, land-use change and forestry) regulation. It regulates how forests, carbon sinks and emissions caused by the use of land are taken into account in the EU’s climate objectives.
Thanks to the fast growing bioeconomy in Finland, the forest industry is aiming to increase harvesting up to the 80 million m3 per year from the current level of approximately 60 million m3.
At the same time the EU would like to reduce the use of forest land through European climate policy. If Finland reaches its harvesting targets, forest use could potentially be counted as carbon dioxide emission and then the country should buy emission allowances from other EU member states or reduce CO2 emissions further in other industrial sectors where Finland already has very tight CO2 targets.