Much is said about the use of forests and not without reason. The energy crisis is stressing Europe and more wood is being burnt. At the same time, the European Commission is preparing a nature restoration law and the Union intends to ensure that no products are sold on the internal market associated with deforestation or forest degradation.
Concern for nature and the condition of the forests is justified. Forest species account for almost a third of the endangered species in Finland. Our carbon sinks have decreased because forests are growing more slowly than expected and the carbon sink calculation method has changed. It would be easy to think that we should simply protect the world’s forests and no longer use them. However, there’s no black and white answer: forests need to be managed and used according to principles of sustainable forest management, which includes conservation.
Up to 90% of global deforestation is caused by the clearing of forests for agriculture. The loss of forests and biodiversity is intensified by extreme weather events caused by climate change which weaken crop yields and contribute to the spread of plant pests and diseases. Besides nurturing carbon sinks, we must get global emissions rapidly down during this decade. This requires a full transfer from the fossil economy and active forest management. We need renewable alternatives to replace non-renewable ones.
The responsible use of forests is constant balancing between carbon sequestration, biodiversity, water bodies, soil and human wellbeing. In 2022 we launched our new Forest Action responsibility programme, which combines these five aspects. The programme includes projects that support the nesting of birds of prey, emissions reduction, the restoration of water bodies, prevention of soil depletion, the creation of economic wellbeing and the piloting of countless projects aimed at using forests better and more sustainably. In Finland, we have among other things decided to double the amount of deadwood and share of broadleaved trees in UPM’s forests to make them more diverse and better adapted to the changing climate. We recommend private forest owners do the same when planning forest management with professionals.
The Forest Action programme brings all UPM’s responsibility ambitions and actions under the same umbrella and promotes the implementation of actions in our all wood sourcing areas: Northern Europe, Central Europe, the United States and Uruguay. In the Forest Action report just published, we present our key ambitions and actions already taken. By telling about the work we do, we strengthen the knowledge and understanding related to responsibility and inspire new projects. In the same context, we encourage other forest owners to manage their forests by putting climate and biodiversity first. In this work, copying is allowed since the contribution of as many forest owners as possible is required to reach our common goals.
Forests are carbon sinks and an irreplaceable habitat for countless species. They are also an inexhaustible source of renewable materials, without which we would be unable to build a sustainable society.