Government’s analysis, assessment and research activities
Report: Forest carbon sink potential is growing; reducing GHG emissions from agriculture is a challenge

Government analysis, assessment and research activitiesMinistry of Agriculture and ForestryMinistry of Economic Affairs and Employment 28.2.2019 13.05 | Published in English on 28.2.2019 at 13.23
Press release 130/2019
Report: Forest carbon sink potential is growing; reducing GHG emissions from agriculture is a challenge

Forest carbon sinks are in a key position in terms of the potential of the land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) sector to promote the achievement of climate objectives in Finland. According to recent scenario calculations, by 2050 the forest carbon sink could as much as double from the present. Greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector could in turn be reduced by 30% by 2050 from the level in 1990, but this would require major changes to peatland cultivation.

A study by the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) shows that, based on the hypotheses used, the potential of the agricultural sector to cut its greenhouse gas emissions are quite limited. The greatest impact could be achieved by clearing less peatland into arable land, increasing plant cover on peatlands, and raising the groundwater level in peatland soil. Growth in agricultural productivity, successful adaptation to climate change, and increased use of land with mineral soil for production help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from peatlands. These also improve the conditions for using various kinds of means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from peatlands. Increasingly common biogasification of animal manure would also help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector.

By these measures greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture could be reduced by 30% by 2050 from the level in 1990 without significantly changing the volumes of domestic agricultural production. Achieving emission reductions beyond this would mean a significant decrease in domestic agricultural production and/or remarkable shift in the consumers’ diets towards more vegetarian ones.

In the LULUCF sector carbon sinks can be increased, besides reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Good forest management has the most important role in terms of increasing carbon sinks. Emission reductions can be achieved by preventing the loss of forest (converting forest land into other types of land use), especially in peatland areas. Another way to reduce emissions is by afforestation of peatlands, even if it takes some time before the impact on enhancing carbon sinks can be seen. Carbon sinks can also be increased by afforesting lands released from other uses. Means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural lands include the use of plant cover to prevent carbon loss from arable land and maintaining or increasing soil carbon content. Future energy solutions may either reduce emissions in the LULUCF sector (peat no longer used for energy) or increase them (need to clear more land for wind power building).

The LULUCF scenarios produce estimates on the development of the sink subject to certain assumptions and conditions. The strong development of forest carbon sinks after 2030 is related to the structure of our forests at present. The most important factor is the strong growth of young spruce stands in southern Finland due to the remarkable increase in the area seeded with spruce since the mid-1990s. The size of the forest carbon sink also depends on the assumptions in the growth models used which inevitably contain uncertainties, especially in the long term.

The project on the development of emissions and sinks in the agricultural and LULUCF sectors until 2050 carried out by the Natural Resources Institute Finland is part of the implementation of the Government’s plan for analysis, assessment and research in 2018 (www.tietokayttoon.fi).

Inquiries at the Natural Resources Institute Finland:

Project on the development of emissions and sinks in the agricultural and LULUCF sectors until 2050: Jyrki Aakkula, Senior Scientist, tel. +358 29 532 6045
GHG emissions from the agricultural sector: Kristiina Regina, Research Professor, tel. +358 29 532 6474
Changes in agricultural production: Heikki Lehtonen, Research Professor, tel. +358 29 532 6316
GHG emissions and removals in the LULUCF sector: Tarja Tuomainen, Senior Scientist, tel. +358 29 532 2190
Forestry modelling and analyses: Olli Salminen, Senior Scientist, tel. +358 29 532 5346
Email addresses: firstname.lastname@luke.fi

Inquiries at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment:

Petteri Kuuva, Senior Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 29 506 4819, petteri.kuuva@tem.fi, Chair of the Steering Group

Inquiries at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry:

Agricultural sector: Birgitta Vainio-Mattila, Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 29 516 2346
LULUCF sector: Jaana Kaipainen, Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 29 516 2270
Email addresses: firstname.lastname@mmm.fi