Finnish forests: a two billion ton CO2 case-study?

Finland forests CO2 removals

Can forestry remove CO2 from the atmosphere at multi-GTpa scale? This 19-page note about Finland forests CO2 removals is a case study , where detailed data goes back a century. 70% of the country is forest. It is managed sustainably, equitably, economically. And forests have sequestered 2GT of CO2 in the past century, offsetting two-thirds of the country’s fossil emissions.

Nature-based carbon removals underpin 25% of all the decarbonization in our roadmap to net zero. The key debate is whether they can scale to this level, measurably, reliably, as covered on pages 2-3.

Finland makes for an excellent case study. An overview of the country, its forests and its forest-centric culture is set out on pages 4-6.

The structure of Finnish forestry is broken down on pages 7-10. Our data are aggregated from Natural Resources Institute Finland, and offer the best, most comprehensive breakdown we have ever encountered on the costs of forest management (across 20 line items), harvesting practices and realized pricing for different categories of wood.

Carbon credentials are calculated on pages 11-12, explaining the maths above: 2GT of CO2 sequestered in the past century, versus 3GT of nationwide fossil emissions.

Productivity data are also excellent, improving at 1% per year over the past century, with biomass yields per hectare almost doubling since the first half of the 20th century. This is mainly through improved forestry practices (pages 13-16).

Conclusions of Finland forests CO2 removals are spelled out on pages 17-19. 110 countries, with 5bn acres of land, have a 1-5x better environment for growing forests than icy Finland. For Brazil, for example, to get repeatedly ‘trounced’ by Finland should be as surprising in forestry as it would be in soccer.

To read more of our outlook on Finland’s forestry product business that aspires to be a leading provider of renewable products, please see our article here.

Nature based CO2 removals: theory of evolution?

Learning curves and cost deflation are widely assumed in new energies but overlooked for nature-based CO2 removals. This 15-page note finds the CO2 uptake of reforestation projects could double again from here. Support for NBS has already stepped up sharply in 2021. Beneficiaries include the supply chain and leading projects.

Nature based carbon removals are re-capped on page 2, covering their important, their costs and how they are re-shaping the energy transition.

But policy support is growing faster than expected, as outlined on pages 3-5. Now that nature-based CO2 removals are on the map, they are in competition with other new energies. Hence which technologies will ‘improve fastest’?

The historical precedent from agriculture is that yields have improved 4-7x over 50-100 years, due to learning curve effects. So will forestry practices be similar? (pages 6-7).

Thirty variables can be optimized when re-foresting a degraded eco-system. We run through the most important examples on pages 8-13.

But is optimizing nature ‘natural’? This is a philosophical question. Our own perspectives and conclusions are offered on page 14-15.

Reforestation: a real-life roadmap?

This 12-page note sets out an early-stage ambition for Thunder Said Energy to reforest former farmland in Estonia, producing high-quality CO2 credits in a biodiverse forest. The primary purpose would be to stress-test nature-based carbon removals in our roadmap to net zero, and understand the bottlenecks. IRRs can also surpass 10% at $35-50/ton CO2.

The correct way to structure a reforestation project is one of the most important questions in the energy transition, but few seem to have cracked the code. This is our conclusion from hundreds of models and discussions, which are summarized on pages 2-4.

Our own interests in undertaking a reforestation project are set out on 5-8, combining personal circumstances, economics and an aspiration to understand the reforestation process in more detail.

What will a high-quality project need to look like? Our expectations and goals are set out on pages 9-12. As transparently as possible. This is a structured list of questions, and our initial hypotheses, to be addressed in future research.

Copyright: Thunder Said Energy, 2022.