Minister Olli Rehn in Nordregio Forum 2016

Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment 22.11.2016 13.11

Nordregio Forum 2016: From Fossil to Bio-based and Sustainable Economy – Innovation and Policy for Green Transition in the Nordic Region, Scandic Marina Congress Center, 22 November 2016

Distinguished Chair, dear colleagues and friends,

I want warmly welcome you to this forum. I also want to warmly welcome our international friends to Finland – the climate may not be warm in this time of the year, but I’m sure we will warm up in the course of this debate.

We are on the edge of a new economic era. In Finland we are convinced that the next wave of the global economy is bioeconomy. Therefore it is justified to refer to the transition from a fossil economy to a bioeconomy -  an economy that relies on sustainable use of renewable natural resources to produce materials, energy, products and services.

Transitioning to a biobased economy means replacing fossil material with biomass. We can use what is growing in our fields and forests and also in seas, lakes and through aquaculture.

The European Commission is expected to deal with the sustainability of bioenergy as part of the energy winter package that should be issued next week. For Finland the question of sustainable production and use of forest biomass also for bioenergy is a key priority, as forests are among our most significant natural resources.

We have to build sustainable bioenergy policy in such a way that it enables the development of bioeconomy, provides continuity for investments and doesn’t increase administrative burden.

Global challenges related to declining natural resources and climate change force us to develop an economy that is based on renewable natural resources. Bioeconomy is a strong instrument in solving global problems caused by rapid population growth, followed by an increased demand on food, feed, energy and raw materials.

Bioeconomy has also an important overlap with the circular economy. It will reduce our dependence on fossil resources, prevent biodiversity loss and create new economic growth.

The Government of Finland has recognized bioeconomy and clean technologies as one of the spearheads in its governmental program.  Altogether 300 M € will be allocated to activities leading to new business models and bigger share of bio-energy. (Among other actions in the next three years.)

  • The strategic goals of the Bioeconomy Strategy are: 
  • A competitive operating environment for the bioeconomy,
  • New business from the bioeconomy,
  • A strong bioeconomy competence base,
  • Accessibility and sustainability of biomasses.

Hundreds of different kind of bio-based products have been brought to the market, or are being developed in the pipeline by the forest industry, the chemical industry, the agro-food industry and by energy and construction sectors.These include various kinds of transport fuels, bio-oil and biogas, dissolving pulp, micro-fibrillated cellulose, wood composites and construction materials.

Strategy implementation is supported by our National Bioeconomy Panel. The panel consists of representatives from the government, industries, research and education, as well as NGOs. Its primary role is to increase interaction between the public sector, the private sector and citizens. (And it also engage in dialogue with other programs aiming for a low-carbon and resource-efficient society.)

Bioeconomy is a great opportunity for country like Finland with large forest resources and a strong forest sector. Over half of the Finnish bioeconomy is forest-based. Finland is Europe’s most heavily forested country, with almost 80% of its land area under forest. Annual growth is over 100 Million m3. One of the key objectives of the Finnish government is to increase the use of wood by 15 million cubic meters and to generate new innovative wood-based products.

Globally operating forest industry companies, such as UPM, StoraEnso, Metsä Group, have major production facilities. There are 50 pulp and paper mills and over 240 wood product production sites. For centuries, in fact, Finland has lived off from its forests, and this has created a strong competence base – the entire bio-economy value chain is already in place in Finland.

The Finnish Government is now preparing its energy and climate strategy. The strategy is ambitious: it includes all sectors and parties, and the planned policy measures are cost efficient and fair. On the other we have to note that many policy measures have cost implications.

Therefore a prerequisite for the strategy above all is broad public acceptance. Without the support from the citizens we cannot reach the energy and climate goals we have set. An ambitious but yet realistic strategy towards 2030 is an important step towards a low-carbon society – and eventually a 100 % renewable energy system.

Our work to prepare the national energy and climate strategy for 2030 includes also an analysis of 100 % renewable energy in Finland by 2050.

Our examination of a 100 % renewable energy system takes a more detailed view on four sectors, namely the power sector, heating and cooling, transport and industry.

Discussions about renewable energy often focus on the electricity sector. One point I want to make here is that other sectors such as transport and heating are very important in this respect and should get more attention in the discussions.

Decarbonisation of the transport sector offers great possibilities for Finland. Advanced biofuels can play a major role in this. We have the needed knowhow to maintain our leadership in this area.

A smooth transition to more renewables is a key question for all sectors. We are not building the future energy system from the scratch – on the contrary, energy infrastructure and other investments (f.ex. buildings) have often a long lifetime of 50 years, or even more. There is a clear need to take an energy system perspective, as the sectors influence each other – which also enables them to interact and provide flexibility to each other.

Bioeconomy play a very central role in achieving these objectives.

I wish you an interesting debate today – thank you!