No. 37




Forest Industry is a Pillar of the Estonian Economy

04 June 2018


RiTo No. 37, 2018

  • Henrik Välja

    Henrik Välja

    Managing Director, Estonian Forest and Wood Industries Association

Estonia could become a pioneer of bio-economy if we increase the use of renewable resources to replace the non-renewable ones. Forest is for our country what oil is to some others, and it is up to us to make wise choices in managing this resource.

Today, the forest industry is our strongest and most competitive field of industry, and has laid the foundation on which we have built our country. The added value created by the forestry and wood processing companies has increased tenfold over the past 20 years, now forming nearly 5.3 per cent – over one billion euros – of the Estonian GDP.

Currently, Estonia receives four euros in return for every euro paid to the EU. This will change in August 2021, when the European aid to Estonia will undergo a significant reduction. The termination of the European aid would mean that we would have to find our own solutions to increase our national income. While our attraction centres are catching up with the European living standards, our rural areas are still struggling. In the forest industry, most jobs are located outside the attraction centres; the industry has created around 35,000 jobs in rural areas.

We should think big: Why haven’t we built any wooden ministries, shopping centres, or high-rise buildings in Estonia? Why couldn’t wooden buildings make up a higher percentage among all the new constructions in Estonia? While the Estonians built the world’s highest wooden building in Norway, there are still no wooden high-rise buildings on our home soil. Wood is light and easy to construct in, and cross laminated timber is also more fire-resistant than steel, which will start to melt and bend at considerably lower temperatures. Replacing a ton of cement with wood in construction keeps two tons of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere.

But is the active use of wood good for the climate? Everything that is produced today from fossil materials can be produced from wood. Modern technologies make it possible to use wood to produce packaging, clothing, buildings, cars, sun panels, cosmetics, and even computer screens. In fact, wood is a true 21st century material – it is ecological, reusable and stores carbon during it growth cycle. We could make Estonia into the first eco-state where we replace the non-renewable natural resources and non-biodegradable materials with renewable ones.

Naturally, we must take care to leave our children and grandchildren healthy, strong, and biologically diverse forests. If we neglect our forests now, we are stealing income from our children and grandchildren. Maintenance and renewal of the forests helps us to better balance the benefits from these, whether in the form of wood for construction, or manufacturing furniture or consumer goods, or as a natural environment that forms the habitat of different species and a possible tourist attraction.

The decisions we make today determine the state of the forests when we hand them over to the future generations. Hoping that they remain beautiful and healthy without care or renewal is tantamount to wanting a field to yield a good crop without sowing or harvesting.