For the first time, this report, which was published by the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) today, provides a comprehensive range of methods that will enable the natural resources sector to adapt to climate change. The report stresses that some changes are inevitable, and proactive adaptation is the most financially viable way forward. If action is timed correctly, Finland may even benefit from climate change.
Commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the State of Adaptation in Finland 2017 contains an analysis and listing of adaptation measures available for the agriculture, forestry, fisheries, game and reindeer husbandry sectors.
According to Research Professor Pirjo Peltonen-Sainio, who is in charge of the report’s preparation at Luke, adaptation to climate change is being actively studied around the world, but Finland cannot simply wait for others to produce operating models. The northern climate is undergoing the most rapid change, and food production and forest growth are already being affected.
“We must lead the way. Mitigation is important, but no measures taken in northern production areas can completely prevent change from occurring. In this country, adaptation has given way to mitigation, despite the exceptional and extreme weather patterns already occurring at an accelerating pace.”
Preparation for weather and climate risks a must
According to Peltonen-Sainio, Finland’s position is also exceptional because benefits can be achieved through adaptation and risk management. Forestry may benefit the most.
She gives a word of warning: “Elsewhere, adaptation involves minimising the drawbacks, in order to minimise the fall in production. We can achieve benefits, but if we fail to act in a timely manner, those benefits may be lost.”
Forest growth is expected to accelerate in the warming climate, and forestry adaptation measures play a key role in the report. Key areas for action include increasing the proportion of mixed forest, and ending the international trade in saplings in order to prevent the spread of forest pests and invasive alien species, and the widespread destruction they cause.
“In monetary terms, adaptation of forestry is the key issue. However, the report highlights a wide range of issues in different sectors. For example, in reindeer husbandry the changes will also involve strong social and cultural aspects,” says Peltonen-Sainio.
Future farmers need solid professional skills, financial buffers and ways of maintaining and expanding production capacity. The changes have already been taken into account in plant breeding. However, a wide range of actors in the production chain will need to implement the adaptation measures.
“Breeding programmes must offer new crop options, in addition to the familiar crops. State compensation for crop failures became a thing of the past at the beginning of last year. Insurance companies must therefore provide a wide range of products in order to prepare for extreme weather phenomena on land, in the forests and on water bodies,” says Peltonen-Sainio.
Stakeholder analysis revealed the need for information
The report includes a stakeholder analysis mapping the adaptive capacity of entrepreneurs in the natural resources sector, farming advisors, public officials and organisations. According to Jaana Sorvali, a Researcher at Luke, adaptation measures have not become common in any sector.
“The main message from stakeholders is that if we knew what to do, we would do it. Sharing of research data and its practical implementation emerged as vital issues. At best, adaptation is about anticipation, not a sudden transition,” says Sorvali.
According to Saara Lilja-Rothsten, Senior Adviser at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the report’s completion is a major milestone in putting the National Climate Change Adaptation Plan into practice.
“We will continue by evaluating the recommendations highlighted by the report and the measures that must be taken in order to manage risks and enable the integration of sustainability with regard to climate issues in various sectors. The information compiled in the report must be made available throughout society, from forest owners and farmers to training institutions and decision-makers. More information is urgently needed on the benefits and costs involved in adapting to climate change, to ensure the successful adaptation of various sectors,” proclaims Lilja-Rothsten.