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Speech by minister Kurvinen at New European Bauhaus goes into the Woods 24 Nov 2022

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
Publication date 24.11.2022 13.20
Speech

The Minister of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland Antti Kurvinen gave a speech at the Finnish Nature Centre Haltia in Espoo, where high-level European decision-makers convened to explore solutions that forests can offer in the pursuit of good living environments.

Greetings from the forests

Honourable Commissioner, Distinguished Ministers, Your Excellencies,

I am delighted to see so many of you here at this very special event, and that you come from so many different countries and organisations, which means that you represent a great number of perspectives on questions related to the New European Bauhaus initiative.

I am also very happy that we are holding this event in these beautiful surroundings here in Nuuksio, and in this tremendous wooden building.

We all know that wood can be used for a wide variety of materials and end uses. As a material, wood has many positive qualities. However, we rarely even think about how many products or processes already make use of wood or wood fibres: medicines, chemicals, textiles, cosmetics and fertilisers are just a few examples. I have to say that I was surprised to hear just recently about one new wood-based innovation: Could we have imagined a few years ago that we would now be using wood-based materials to make batteries? 

In my view, we still haven’t seen everything wood has to offer. Quite the opposite, I believe that in the future, we will find even more versatile uses for wood, and we will see many innovations in this area. Although we have long traditions of wood construction in Europe, we can certainly develop new solutions for using wood-based materials in construction, too.

Dear Participants; Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am sure you have already heard several times today about how important forests and the forest sector are for Finland. For more than a hundred years now, the key principle in Finland has been to ensure that forests are sustainably managed for generations to come – to preserve our forests from generation to generation. To ensure this, we emphasise the principle of sustainable forest management and all its dimensions. One example is that our forest legislation always requires regeneration after final felling. Correspondingly, we take long-term measures to promote biodiversity and protect our forests.

As you have probably noticed, even here in the capital region, we are surrounded by forests. Just half an hour from the airport or the centre of Helsinki, we are here in the middle of the forest. As forests are part of everyday life, it is no wonder that we discuss our objectives related to forests and forest management actively in Finland. We have an active debate on forest management and harvesting volumes, protection and ways to safeguard biodiversity, and the role of forests in climate change mitigation.

Recent events in Europe have sadly reminded us Finns of our own reconstruction phase after World War II in the 1940s and 1950s. At that time, domestic raw materials, wood in particular, played an important role in renewing the Finnish economy and society. Precisely in those decades, we also began to see a real boost in the development of the Finnish forest industry.

When it comes to forestry, we are also facing new challenges. In particular, climate change is forcing us to adapt forest management to changing conditions, such as drought and storms. Preventing forest damage and safeguarding the health and growth of forests are key issues throughout Europe. At the same time, successful forest management involves working towards several objectives at once. To name a few, we must find a balance between fostering forest biodiversity, offering recreation opportunities, enhancing carbon sinks and providing raw material for wood products. In Finland, the sector also continues to be of great economic importance. With all of this in mind, it is hardly surprising that the goals related to forests and forest management are sometimes contradictory and difficult to reconcile.

I have been serving as Minister of Agriculture and Forestry for seven months now.  Discussion on forests, in particular, has been very active in recent months in Finland.  Certain EU legislative initiatives have also had a strong impact on the debate. The core question seems to be: How can we sustainably manage our natural resources while conserving biodiverse ecosystems?

I believe that these events, such as today, provide a great opportunity to discuss the different objectives regarding forests and wood-based bioeconomy in Europe. In this context, I would also like to mention that next Tuesday, 29th November, in Brussels will be held two events entitled “Forests and the wood-based bioeconomy – Beyond the Bio-Bubble”. The events are organised by Finnish MEP Elsi Katainen and Academy of Finland Research Flagships. You are warmly welcome to discuss the topical policies and regulations affecting forestry and bio-based materials in Europe!

Dear Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The construction sector has plenty of opportunities to mitigate climate change. Emissions from construction can be easily reduced by using renewable materials, such as wood. I am therefore pleased to see that so much progress has already been made in wood construction.

In recent years, it has been a great pleasure to visit several daycare centres and schools that are successful examples of wooden buildings in public use. Feedback from children and teachers is often very positive as wooden buildings have good indoor air and acoustics.

The construction sector has shown that the transition towards low-carbon building and housing is possible. However, the share of renewable materials can be increased further and on the other hand, improving cost-effectiveness is still important. In Finland, the discussion on increasing the use of wood in construction often focuses on public construction and multi-storey buildings. This is understandable, because they have the greatest potential if we look at the construction volumes.  However, I am pleased to let you know, that in my own ministry, we are also actively seeking opportunities to increase the use of wood in transport infrastructure, such as bridges. Correspondingly, we are carrying out development work on wooden farm structures. From this perspective, increasing the use of wood in construction is linked to the vitality of rural areas. Furthermore, we are making efforts to increase the amount of expertise in the sector by producing learning materials on wood structures and wood products.

In short, while promoting wood products and wood construction, we are also discovering cost-competitive material solutions that leverage the natural properties of wood. I would also like to mention that in Finland, the promotion of wood construction is a good example of excellent cooperation between ministries.
Correspondingly, I believe that cooperation between EU Member states would certainly be useful, and I hope that we could increase this cooperation, for example by exchanging information about best practices.

Dear friends of forests, wood construction and architecture,

Thank you all once again for coming to Finland. I hope you have so far had a productive and thought-provoking day so far, and I hope your lively discussion continues!
I wish you a fruitful journey Into the Woods!

Antti Kurvinen
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