Kristersson must keep his promise to the forest owners

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It was no coincidence that the moderate leader turned to them precisely to try to win votes. Dissatisfaction is simmering among the forest owners. New EU directives and a strict Swedish application have in recent years made it increasingly difficult to farm forests, and more regulation is underway. While you are reading this text, the EU’s Council of Ministers is working on the “ordinance on nature restoration” which risks taking forests corresponding to almost all of Värmland out of production. At the same time, the Deforestation Ordinance, the Renewables Directive and the agreement on emissions and removals of greenhouse gases in forests and land (LULUCF) await implementation, with further restrictions on forestry. As the names suggest, the purposes are legitimate; stop deforestation, restore nature, increase renewables. The problem is implementation. The Deforestation Ordinance places very high demands on the traceability of forest raw materials at all stages, which will lead to large additional costs for the companies. LULUCF states that carbon dioxide absorption in Swedish forests must increase by 10 percent by 2030, a very large increase that is only possible if the forest is heavily fertilized and is not affected by drought, storms or insect attacks. The ordinance on nature restoration, which is still being negotiated, states that nature classed forest must not be degraded and means that it must not be used at all. Due to the fact that Sweden chooses to report the state of Swedish nature in a different way than other countries, it means that up to 1.5 million hectares of forest may have to be taken out of production at a cost of over SEK 100 billion until 2050. The consequences in total risk be very negative for the industry. Forest products are Sweden’s largest net export, the forest industry employs 120,000 people and accounts for 2.5 percent of GDP. That the forest is important to Sweden hardly needs to be pointed out. On the continent, it takes two hours by car to go to a forest. In Sweden, you drive two hours and still haven’t gotten out of the forest. A third of all forests in the EU are in Sweden and Finland. It is a huge natural resource. And a huge climate resource. Unfortunately, the focus of the new EU rules is to reduce the use of the forest in order to meet the climate goals. It’s wrong thinking. If we are to meet our climate commitments, we must replace climate-damaging materials with sustainable ones. The most obvious ones are those that come from the forest. Wood, paper, fabric, cellulose. In buildings, clothing, consumables. We absolutely cannot let the forest stand because we cannot cope with the transition without using it. When a tree grows, is felled, replaces fossil materials and leaves room for a new tree, the climate benefit is doubled. Carbon dioxide is stored in the wooden wall or glulam beam, carbon dioxide that would have been created during the production of steel or cement is not present, and a new tree can grow and absorb more carbon dioxide. If the forest just stands, we cannot replace fossil materials and thus miss part of the climate benefit. It is often lost in the debate but must be the starting point for both climate and forest policy. It is particularly important because Swedish forestry has shown in the last 30 years that through better management it is possible to increase the wood taken from the forest by 40 percent, without felling larger areas. More forest on the same surface, quite simply. In the EU, the forest industry has been regarded as a Nordic special interest, and Swedish politicians have usually not been active enough to steer the process in a direction that benefits us. The negotiations on the regulation on nature restoration are now in the final stage, and Sweden is the chairman of the EU. This must be a priority issue. “Sweden must fight for Swedish forestry in the EU – and stand up so that decisions concerning the forest and how it is used remain a national matter,” said the letter from Kristersson that arrived this summer. Now is the time to act.

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