Celebrating sustainability? A jump from carbon balance calculations to place marketing in North Carelia

3.1.2013 at 14:59

Jani Lukkarinen


There are 598 locations acting as model regions for sustainable development in the UNESCO program “Man and the Biosphere” (MAB). North Carelian biosphere reserve is one of two located in Finland, and it was celebrating 20th anniversary of existence this year. In the international conference “Pearls of Coniferous Forests” highlighting the celebrations at the end of October   bioenergy was chosen as one of the core topics along with green mining and tourism.

 

The opening speeches and keynote presentations introduced North Carelia as a model area in climate change mitigation and renewable energy development as the area has reached carbon neutrality. Big share of bioenergy, forest industry  But what does carbon neutrality actually mean? Is it a feasible policy target and can it be copied and multiplied?

 

The big discovery of carbon neutral region has more to do with geography and economic development of the region than with active political will. The calculations on carbon balance were carried out as part of regional development planning, contributing to three documents published at turn of last year: North Carelian program on climate and energy, Eastern Finland Bioenergy strategy and North Carelian forest strategy. The conclusion was that annual growth of forest biomass in NC account for 3 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, which is more than carbon emissions of industry, traffic, agriculture, waste management and peat production combined.

 

It is true that huge amount of forest biomass provides basis for large scale of bioenergy production as well as potential for carbon sinks (though these calculations are also highly contested). However, it is also foregone conclusion to consider current situation as a result of successful policy tools. It is rather a solid starting point for the development of new policies and better governance of environmental resources.

 

This became evident also in the conference, when the celebratory speeches were over and discussion started - especially in the case of bioenergy. First, the target of carbon neutrality emerged not as technical, but also social and genuinely complex. Second, the achievements proved to be place-specific and thus demanding careful attention to the chosen governance tools and targets. Finally, and most importantly, the shift of discussion from national to regional and local was proposed as an effective way to promote sustainable development and renewable energy.

 

Carbon neutrality provides a nice anecdote for speeches or a source of place marketing. However, when applied to policy processes, these calculations have to be given careful attention.

 

 

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Jani Lukkarinen

Jani Lukkarinen

 

Jani is writing his PhD on different uses of knowledge in emerging bioenergy governance. His special interest is in the interpretations, translations and contestations of scientific, economic, environmental and political knowledges.

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