Without healthy ecosystems, there would be no such thing as a competitive bioeconomy. Promoting biodiversity is essential for many reasons, not least because it is crucial for managing our national risks and promoting our productivity and innovation power. We must all strive to be frontrunners in climate change mitigation, but no company or industry can solve climate-related problems as a solo effort. Adapting to climate change is a critical and strategic national issue for all land-using sectors of industry. How well we adapt to climate change depends on how healthy our ecosystems are, and this is something that we, as a nation, have considerable power to influence.
This May, the International Day for Biological Diversity was expanded into week-long event. For the duration of that week, biodiversity briefly became an even hotter topic than climate change. Today, as we celebrate World Environment Day, the health and future of our ecosystems are again in the spotlight.
We must all do our utmost to mitigate climate change. This is essential for Finland as a nation and for all companies operating here. We must all do our part and act responsibly, setting a good example for others and spreading the best climate-positive practices. At the same time, we should recognize that we can only do so much, and that there are many other players in the mix. Without downplaying our responsibility or dampening anyone’s motivation, we must concede that there are forces greater than ourselves deciding the future course of climate change on this planet. No matter how many climate seminars we hold and how diligently we negotiate national carbon sink targets, our ambitious goals are easily eclipsed by the greater challenge of global carbon emissions no sooner than we return from coffee break.
The actions we take alone will not solve the climate problem over the next decades or centuries, but they can have a significant effect if we export our climate expertise, come up with new innovations for our value chain, create exportable business incentives, and gain insights into impact chains.
If our power to mitigate climate change is limited, we have all the more power to promote biodiversity, which has a different impact on our national competitiveness and the future of our forestry and agriculture. There are three key differences. First of all, we have more power to influence the health of our local ecosystems than global climate patterns. We can make a difference by managing our forests responsibly. Secondly, the diversity of our ecosystems is essential for developing our national bioeconomy and raw material production. Diverse mixed forests with abundant deadwood have greater resilience against pests and extreme weather conditions.
The third difference is the most intriguing one. The health of our ecosystems directly determines how efficiently we are able to utilize our bioeconomy resources. The species inhabiting our forests have developed unique characteristics over millions of years of evolution. We can be creative in harnessing nature’s limitless opportunities as we innovate new bioeconomy solutions. We have barely started the first chapter of this story – the new ways we are learning to manage and utilise forests are merely a foretaste of things to come.
A strong bioeconomy is fundamentally a union between a healthy natural environment and a thriving economy. Both are equally important for us. Both are a source of our wellbeing and prosperity, and without them we would be unable to actualize our goals in life or take care of each other and the environment in the future. The recent pandemic has taught us some valuable lessons in this respect. Our quick response to the short-term crisis offers a model for how we can also respond to longer-term changes in the environment: we must be agile and prepared to act responsibly.
Business- and market-driven mechanisms play a key role as we strive to improve the sustainability of our economy. New business incentives that motivate companies to come up with better environmental solutions are a form of environmental conservation just as nature reserves are. Our future bioeconomy strategies require synergy and collaboration – it is time to do away with the old dichotomy between economics and nature conservation.
Last of all, the integration of nature and economics will never contradict the wisdom of recognizing nature’s inherent value as a beautiful thing in its own right.