Sunday

20th Aug 2017

Opinion

Sweden and Finland can be world-leading bioeconomies

  • A forest in Finland. Growing forest captures large volumes of carbon dioxide each year. (Photo: Aleksi Gron)

The forests of Sweden and Finland represent more than 30 percent of the EU's woodland.

Sweden and Finland will pioneer the bioeconomy, leading the way and inspiring countries in the EU and around the globe.

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Since taking office, our governments have taken several initiatives to develop our respective countries as leaders within the bioeconomy, including within the framework of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region.

These initiatives aim to strengthen the long-term policy ground rules that will steer us away from dependence on fossil fuels and help advance successful industries that can create sustainable jobs. In concrete terms, this involves the following:

Increasing the use of wood can help us significantly reduce the climate impact of the construction process. The production of wooden buildings requires less energy and generates fewer carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions over the course of their life cycle than many other buildings.

A large part of Sweden’s and Finland’s CO2 emissions come from vehicle fleets. It is therefore essential to accelerate the transition towards a fossil-free transport sector. Advanced biofuels have an important role to play in decarbonising the transport sector together with other solutions.

A fossil-free vehicle fleet is a realistic and achievable goal, according to the major 2013 Swedish inquiry Freedom from Fossil Fuels on the Road. Paving the way for long-term policy ground rules will enable us to work for tax regulations that are conducive to the necessary capital-intensive investments.

Sustainable forestry

Industry is the foundation for jobs and economic growth. Green industries will secure both long-term competitiveness and new jobs. This demands long-term and forward-looking industrial and energy policies, geared towards market-based solutions and a commitment to substitution of fossil fuels and products. Policies should promote, not stifle, the use of forest biomass. In the long-term this is both an effective and sustainable climate change mitigation strategy.

Increasing the pace of development for new biobased products has great potential. Many new products have already been created to replace fossil-based products. Some are in the initial phases, while others are ready to be scaled up. For example, bio-based plastics would provide solutions to environmental challenges.

We need to further strengthen the support to technologically mature initiatives to take the steps needed for scaling up and to reach commercialisation.

With the sustainable forestry practices applied today in Sweden and Finland, growing forest captures large volumes of carbon dioxide each year.

Forestry also provides a great deal of employment in rural areas.

In order to create even more jobs and increase the benefits of forests in climate efforts, our governments will stimulate active, sustainable and profitable forestry practices and increased growth in the forest-related sectors through various initiatives.

Combating climate change

In Sweden, the government, supported by a broad range of organisations, is pursuing efforts to realise the full potential of forest in a growing bioeconomy through the development of a national forest programme. Five innovation partnership programmes are launched this year to meet important challenges, among them the climate and environment. Partnership between public actors, business and the academy creates new, innovative solutions that will combine to a circular and bio-based economy.

In 2015, the Finnish government launched a national forest strategy, which continues the long tradition of sustainable care and use of forests that will generate increased well-being. The aim of the Finnish Bioeconomy Strategy launched in May 2014 is to create competitive and sustainable bioeconomy solutions for global problems.

Our countries are endowed with excellent conditions to become world-leading bioeconomies.

Long-term policy ground rules will strengthen our competitiveness and create more jobs, while combating climate change in the long run. We are ready to share our expertise and to work with the EU and the member states to build a strong European bioeconomy.

The evolution of sustainable bioeconomy benefits whole Europe.

Sven-Erik Bucht is Sweden’s minister for rural affairs and Olli Rehn is Finland’s minister for economic affairs

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