Floods in Continental Europe and record-dry May in boreal Finland are some of the on-going examples of climate change events under way. Despite progress made with the Paris Agreement and other instruments, more is needed to combat climate change impacts.
Today, Rewilding Europe, using funds from the European Investment Bank’s Natural Capital Finance Facility, and the Snowchange Cooperative unveil a transformative programme to restore biodiversity values and create new carbon sinks across boreal Finland. This will be achieved by restoring degraded wetlands and boreal forests back into health. Pilot sites are already operational and this re-wilding model has the potential to be replicated even up to 5 million hectares of degraded lands in Finland. The initiative also contains steps to address biodiversity loss and re-wilding opportunities with the Sámi, the only Indigenous peoples of Europe. New business models are a part of the initiative.
An innovative model
Of all the countries in Europe, Finland has the highest potential for carbon sequestration in its natural forests, peatlands and wetlands. With a growing global need to mitigate and offset carbon emissions and counter climate change, carbon credits could become an important tool for Finnish climate change policy and rural economic development. Rewilding of drained forests and rewetting of peatlands is an attractive strategy to combine climate adaptation with sustainable land-use models that support biodiversity, wildlife and nature-based economies such as tourism. With support from the European Investment Bank’s Natural Capital Finance Facility, Rewilding Europe and Snowchange Cooperative have started their work to secure, restore and protect Finland’s forests and wetlands using new forms of finance. Starting this process, up to € 1.2 million is expected be allocated over the next five years to expand the pilot stage. Across the 2020s the initiative is expected to be scaled up to thousands of hectares of restored wetlands as sinks and forests.
First pilot projects
Purchasing high natural value strategic locations aims to prove the ecological and socio-economic relevance of the rewilding model. In 2017 the Linnunsuo area (110 ha) at the source of the wider Jukajoki basin (9,000 ha) was chosen as the first test case for this new approach. Encouraged by the first results, three new pilot sites will become operational in 2018, covering 209 hectares but positively influencing another 19,000 ha. The project is now developing rewilding process and building income from carbon offsetting and other services. With the expected increase of the value of the carbon credits (from January 2019 the aviation sector will be obliged to monitor and offset their carbon footprint), our project aims to rapidly expand using funding from new investors following sustainable development and respect for community led restoration including the private sector.
There are over 5 million hectares of drained peatland in Finland, presenting an unprecedented opportunity to select high natural value locations for rewilding and restoring natural ecosystems and biodiversity. In these areas carbon sequestration and other socio-economic activities, like wildlife watching, water-storage at the source, improving water quality and sustainable harvesting of natural products are to be developed creating new jobs and skills whilst contributing tax payments.
Matthew McLuckie, Investment Manager of Rewilding Europe Capital and Timon Rutten, Head of Enterprise commented, “Restoring and rewilding valuable peatlands creates benefits for all Europeans. This ambitious transformational project aims to connect ecosystems, businesses and communities in collaboration to protect these natural landscapes and their ecosystem services. Not only focusing on climate change mitigation, the project partners are working to ensure these peatlands positively contribute to local communities and economies and support Finland in exceeding their environmental goals and commitments.”
New Model to Further the Community-Conserved Areas and Support Sámi Indigenous Communities
“This initiative is important for the community networks that Snowchange Cooperative represents”, says Tero Mustonen from the Snowchange Cooperative. “It allows for the advancement of new types of conservation that are respectful and supportive of the Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas – ICCA approach and provide for the local economy as well. We look forwards expanding this initiative in Finland over the next years”, he concludes. Already from the start some key sites within Sápmi, the Indigenous Sámi homeland have been chosen, and will be restored using Sámi knowledge and science. This advances climate equity and benefits to Indigenous communities within Europe.