"National consensus" on Finnish forests

Agreement on environmental certification criteria marred by international forest protests

A multi-sectoral group has reached a "national consensus" on criteria for environmental certification of forestry in Finland. Participants in the process believe it to be the first of its kind in the world. Twenty nine environmentalist, industry and other groups discussed practical ways to base Finnish forestry on principles of sustainable development. However, one environmental group withdrew from the process and last week supported a Dutch protest against Finnish paper producers.

Forestry provides around a third of Finland's export income, a much higher proportion than any other European country. The Finnish forestry industry and other interested parties have been discussing draft standards for sustainable forest management since June last year.

In a statement released jointly by industry and environmental groups on Friday, the group says that it has now reached a consensus that should lead to the "introduction of a mutually supportive, international certification and environmental management system."

The outline agreement covers some 40 criteria for sustainable forest management. According to Hannu Valtanen of the Finnish Forest Industries Federation, they include both qualitative and quantitative standards. One criterion limits total cuttings in any forest area (generally around 1 million hectares) to the equivalent of five years of forest growth. Another requires the share of "old growth forest" to be at least 15%. A third rules out all drainage work in "natural moor" areas. A fourth requires that 3-5% of any individual cutting area should be left standing when mature trees are felled.

The group is now planning to test the draft criteria in three pilot programmes, which are due to report back before the end of the year. Environmental certification is expected to follow, and should be open both to Finland's forestry and paper giants such as Enso and UPM-Kymmene, and small landowners, who own about two-thirds of Finnish forest land.

Not all environmental groups have subscribed to the consensus. The Finnish Association for Nature Conservation is a leading participant, but its youth wing, the Nature League, withdrew, mainly in protest against "insufficiently firm" environmental targets, especially on the issue of logging of old-growth forests.

Working in partnership with the Nature League, the Dutch environmental group Milieu Defensie last Wednesday blockaded a ship carrying Finnish paper in the port of Ijmuiden. Twenty-five activists attached themselves to the ship, preventing it from departing for Amsterdam. Seventeen people were reported to have been arrested by police.

Follow Up:
World Wide Fund for Nature Finland, tel: +358 9 774 0100; Finnish Forest Industries Federation, tel: +358 9 13 11 54 88; Milieu Defensie, tel: +31 20 622 1366.

Please sign in to access this article. To subscribe, view our subscription options, or take out a free trial.

Please enter your details

Forgotten password?

Having trouble signing in?

Contact Customer Support at
or call 020 8267 8120

Not a subscriber?

Take a free trial now to discover the critical insights and updates our coverage offers subscribers.