Speech of Minister Maria Ohisalo at the Into the Woods event 24.11.2022
Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Maria Ohisalo gave her speech at the Into the Woods event on 24th of November 2022. The event, held at the Finnish Nature Centre Haltia in Espoo, brought together high-level European decision-makers to explore solutions forests can offer in the pursuit of good living environments.
Building a carbon neutral future
Honourable President of the Commission, Prime Ministers and Commissioners,
As we have heard this morning, forests are our allies for a carbon neutral future. Forests are also home to many of our species and habitats, and host a big part of our endemic biodiversity.
And we are still losing biodiversity at an alarming rate. While three quarters of our landmass is covered by forests, only few percent are old, natural forests. About one third of our endangered species in Finland live in forests.
As regards our forest carbon sink, we received very alarming preliminary results last spring. It seems that the Finnish forest carbon sink has shrunk dramatically. This is very worrying because our national 2035 climate neutrality target relies much on our forest carbon sink. We will learn the final results and reasons behind this development by the end of this year.
Friends, Although wood is a renewable resource, the supply of wood is not limitless.
Buildings and the construction sector, on the other hand, desperately need solutions for decarbonising. Approximately 40 % of global greenhouse gas emissions are emitted by the built environment.
The way we build today has also a big negative impact on biodiversity. Extraction of raw materials causes 90 percent of global biodiversity loss and construction is responsible for half of the global raw material consumption.
There are now eight billion people on this planet, and the number is increasing. There are also more than eight million different species of animals and plants that live here as our neighbors.
We must find space and comfort for all of us.
Given our situation today, I find it very interesting to make comparisons to the origins of the New European Bauhaus.
That is, the original Bauhaus, 100 years ago.
In those days, Europe was recovering from the First World War. Providing decent living conditions were high on the social agenda, and an industrial production of affordable houses and household items was seen as a path there.
The original Bauhaus is well known for the idea of building as a “comprehensive artwork”. That is where different forms of arts, design and architecture meet.
But it is less known that holistic wellbeing was also in the DNA of the architecture at the original Bauhaus. The aim was to find a harmony between the needs of an individual and the society.
The need to find harmony is still very valid and I dare to say that its relevance has even grown.
Our lifestyles are out of balance and we are seriously violating the planetary boundaries.
We should find harmony between the needs of the environment and the economy, between humans and non-humans, between the needs of developed and developing countries.
The original idea of Bauhaus incorporated also the idea of social inclusion, which is still relevant today — in Finland we are determined to eradicate homelessness completely within this decade.
We need to seek harmony between nature and society not only because of altruistic reasons, but because humans as a species need the services Nature provides us.
Forests are irreplaceable homes for biodiversity and act as carbon sinks. Forests also hold a great potential for providing renewable raw materials for a carbon neutral economy. These raw materials should be used in a way that is as long-term and high-value as possible.
Building with wood can reduce the carbon footprint of construction and at the same time bind carbon for a very long time.
Using wood in construction to replace high emission materials in a manner that binds carbon for a very long time, is in my view one of the best uses of this valuable resource.
At the same time we must make sure that our use of forest resources supports the maintenance and enhancement of carbon sink, in line with Finland's 2035 climate neutrality target, and leads to enhancing biodiversity towards nature positive forest management.
I would like propose we lift our eyes and look into the future:
What would our forests and buildings look like in a climate neutral Europe? What kind of architecture and design would take us there?
Let´s imagine a climate neutral Europe. Let´s ask ourselves, what could I do to make it happen? What can we do together, to reach this goal as soon as possible?
This afternoon, we will have a chance to practice this approach. It is my sincere wish that this sort of future-oriented discussion would spark new ideas and new inspiration.
Dear friends, together we can build a climate neutral future. Let's find new inspiration for that today!