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The Bioeconomy celebrates nature

First World BioEconomy Forum at Ruka, Finland
September 11-13, 2018

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The very first World BioEconomy Forum will be held in Ruka, Finland 11-13 September. The Forum will bring professionals from the leading edge of the bioeconomy for face-to-face dialog in the one of the world’s most exquisite areas of outstanding natural beauty.

World BioEconomy Forum is steadily approaching, and Mark Rushton, Forum's overall moderator, has been interviewing more panelists on their expectations for the upcoming event. This time the focus is on Panel 2 and its topic, Forests' role in mitigating climate change.

See what panelists Aida Greenbury, Nils Torvalds, Teresa Presas, Antti Asikainen, and Eduardo Rojas-Briales have to say about their topic and this year's event:



Aida Greenbury, Global Sustainability Advisor, Greenbury & Associates
What is your general opinion of forests role in the mitigation of climate change?
 
Forest plays a major role. Around a quarter of global GHG emissions are from agriculture and forestry.
 
What are your ideas on a strategy to maximize forest resources?
 
By responsibly managing forests with high productivity while conserving critical forests for stabilizing the landscapes and addressing climate change.
 
In your opinion, how will the event in Ruka help to push the bioeconomy further along into the future?

To exchange global views, to better understand global context, risks and opportunities in responsible forest management and innovations.
 



Nils Torvalds, Member of the European Parliament (MEP)
What is your general opinion of forests role in the mitigation of climate change? 
 
The role of forests – and good and sustainable forest management – is of utmost importance in mitigating climate change. In school, many of us might hopefully have been taught that the world's forests are like the Earth's lungs: without our forests, we would soon run out of oxygen to breathe.
 
Today, the role of forests in the fight against climate change is under major scrutiny, and political debate. At the global level, and for us in the European Parliament, it is the Paris Agreement that sets the framework; the Agreement underlines that the inclusion of the forest sector in climate mitigation efforts is essential in meeting the long-term goals of keeping the global temperature rise well below 2 degrees. The Paris Agreement also calls on countries to work towards achieving a balance between anthropogenic
emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century.
 
Much of the focus of our work in the climate field has in recent years been on how to best integrate the forestry sector's carbon sink and pool potential into the EU’s climate efforts. This question sparked intense negotiations and the end result is perhaps not the best one – but still a major achievement acknowledging the importance of the potential of our forests in climate change mitigation.
 
When it comes to the product side, the role of wood-based materials will likely become even more important as legislators are looking into possibilities of the circular economy. One of the biggest discussions before the European elections next year is going to be about the use of single-use plastics and their impact on the environment. As legislators start thinking about ways to phase out single-use plastics, alternatives will have to be found and deployed from other resources. The possibilities for bio based and sustainable material from the forest in this case are many, and their importance will likely only increase in the coming years. 

What are your ideas on a strategy to maximize forest resources? 
 
Sustainable forest management is of key importance. This means that our forests and forest land should be managed so that their vitality is ensured, both now and in the long-term. Forests are important not only in the ecological sense, but have major economic and social functions as well, both locally and globally. Any strategy for maximizing forest resources should be a long-term one. The types of forest vary, as do their regeneration capacity. Any forest resource strategy should have this as a solid base. Good stewardship and sustainable forest management of course then varies from forest to forest, but the general, long-term frame of securing the vitality of the forest cannot be circumvented. Clear guidance and frameworks on what sustainable forest management means should be used. Today, we also have the capacity and tradition of mapping our forests and forest resources. This, I think, is a truly magnificent resource that could be used in the sharing of best practices and experiences from sustainable forest management and good forest stewardship.
 
In your opinion, how will the event in Ruka help to push the bioeconomy further along into the future? 

The timing of this event is very good, as it coincides with the revision of the EU bioeconomy strategy, for which the European Commission's proposal should be published later this autumn. By bringing together stakeholders from across the field, I do hope that the takeaways from our discussions here reach all the way up (or down) to the drawing boards of politicians and staff in the different institutions and offices working with the EU’s long-term forestry and bioeconomy strategies. The full potential of forests in climate change mitigation and in the bioeconomy is still untapped, and a true shift to a circular economy requires a larger mobilisation of wood as a resource.
 



Teresa Presas, former Director General of CEPI, Strategic Perspectives at Steps STRL
What is your general opinion of forests role in the mitigation of climate change? 

Forest are essential in the mitigation of climate change. Their role is twofold: as a sink, removing CO2 from the atmosphere in the “growth process” and as a large durable stock while trees are alive and later in forest-based products that we use in our daily life.

What are your ideas on a strategy to maximize forest resources? 

The first issue to be understood is that there are no, simple and easy to implement actions to complex problems. Forest resources are dependent on local contexts, driven by people in most world regions, heavily regulated under various political and institutional frameworks and perceived very differently from various stakeholder groups.
 
Therefore, long term compromises between conflicting policy objectives have to be drawn and multi-disciplinary actions need to be set in place. Regional and local social environments, ecological conditions, development demands, and so many other drivers provide opportunities and constrains to local global action.
 
The only possible strategy has to encompass local needs and expectations. It has to be base on the best use of its products - mainly wood - along the lifecycle. In some cases it means, for instance, to increase the use of timber in housing. For other regions, to provide alternative energy sources than burning wood for daily uses. Where forest resources are well stocked, measures to remove wood from forests into products, maximize CO2 storage into products. Techniques, methods and management options exist to have productive forests as balanced as possible with nature conservation objectives and ensuring social values.  Other areas need to have in place measures to maintain forest areas intact and avoid degradation. Restoration techniques are necessary to increase forest stock and re-establish diversity into natural environments. 
 
Any strategy must the built around a global vision – UN Forest principles – recognizing the time, scale and social implications of forest related action. However forest resources, its management and use, are only part of the solution. Consumption patterns and, in particular, energy consumption is the problem. 
 
In your opinion, how will the event in Ruka help to push the bioeconomy further along into the future? 

Bioeconomy is quite a new discipline, at least under its present name. Wood-based technologies and products are already at the forefront of the bioeconomy. A conference in a major forest country, where companies, research centres and universities have for long been working together to use forest resources in a sustainable way, aiming at replacing fossil-based resources, is an important and eloquent signal of commitment and opportunities. It is also a call for sensible approaches to policies that can contribute to mobilising raw material for the wood-based bioeconomy.
 


Antti Asikainen, Research professor at Luke - Natural Resources Institute Finland
What is your general opinion of forests role in the mitigation of climate change? 

They play globally an important part in the mitigation of climate change. However, biogenic carbon has always been in circulation between the vegetation/soil and atmosphere. Therefore, overstocking of forests with carbon does not work. Society should tap into this circulation to bypass part of the carbon via its energy and raw material systems.
 
What are your ideas on a strategy to maximize forest resources? 

Keep them healthy with silviculture and seek value for the forest and wood. If investors truly have interest in forests and forest has a high value, it will increase and forests will stay as forests.
 
In your opinion, how will the event in Ruka help to push the bioeconomy further along into the future? 

I hope that we find genuinely possible pathways to a true biosociety and understand that the forest industry will be one of key platforms for the future growth of the bioeconomy. I also hope that understanding on the safeguarding and sustainable growing of bio-base i.e. forest will increase.
 


Eduardo Rojas-Briales, Professor of the faculty of Agronomy, Polytechnic University of Valencia
What is your general opinion of forests role in the mitigation of climate change? 

It's of high relevance in three areas: a) increase forest stocks b) increase temporary stocks due to the use of wood/bamboo in buildings c) substitution through the bioeconomy
Depending of the country's conditions a) or c) will be more relevant. Central and northern Europe or Japan have capitalized forests so that c) is priority, whereas in south and western Europe a) is still crucial. The key issue is how to internalize in a equitable, fair and efficient way to the forest managers so that the optimal contribution of forests is achieved.
 
What are your ideas on a strategy to maximize forest resources? 

Agree at international level on legal doctrine of environmental services. The UNFCCC driven interpretation of additionality is deeply unfair and underplays the crucial potential of forests by increasing forest stocks. Regarding pushing bioeconomy research, technological transfer, regulations limiting plastics, communication and overcoming rigid biodiversity preservation approaches are crucial as well as linking forest management with fire protection, green infrastructure, natural disaster prevention and water.
 
In your opinion, how will the event in Ruka help to push the bioeconomy further along into the future? 

It is crucial that all the sectors potentially engaged in the bioeconomy are integrated and contribute evenly. Agriculture and its value chain, biological residues and marine environment need to be activated. There is also a need to consolidate a fair regulatory environment that does not break bioeconomy development by overwhelming traditional activities like forestry or agriculture with environmental regulations designed for industrial activities. Further differentiation is also required in taxation of renewable and non-renewable economies.
 
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