Vuoden Tiedekynä award winner Sampo Soimakallio discusses the problems of using bioenergy in mitigating climate change

Kone Foundation has granted its annual Vuoden Tiedekynä academic writing award for 2018 to Sampo Soimakallio, D.Sc (Tech.), for his article on the effects of biomass energy on carbon sinks and GHG emissions. The winner was selected by journalist Juha Kauppinen, and Soimakallio will receive the award today on Wednesday, May 9, at Lauttasaari manor, Kone Foundation’s new premises.

In his award-winning piece, Sampo Soimakallio argues that the proposed key solution for curbing climate change in Finland, a bioeconomy based on the increased use of forest resources, is problematic due to its significant negative impact on the capacity of Finnish forests to serve as carbon sinks. This means that although emissions can be reduced by replacing fossil fuels with the use of forest resources as bioenergy, the net amount of atmospheric carbon emissions may not necessarily be decreased for another several decades. This leaves policymakers with the difficult task of weighting the short and long-term effects of the selected measures.

“In order for the targets set by the Paris climate accord to be reached, emissions must be reduced and carbon sinks increased on a rapid timetable. However, increasing the use of biomass hinders our possibilities for expanding the amount of carbon sequestered in forests and soil,” says Sampo Soimakallio.

“The best article of the Vuoden Tiedekynä nominations is also highly topical. It was published in the autumn of 2017 amidst heated public debate on the increased utilisation of Finnish forests, as the EU drafted the land use and forestry regulation LULUCF. One of the greatest merits of the article is its level-headed treatment of the subject. Its motive is to increase the wealth of knowledge in society. It presents the current scientific understanding on the effects of using biomass as energy and its implications in Finland, where the use of bioenergy essentially means significantly increasing logging. The piece does not voice political opinions or place blame on politicians, but its starting points are the questions that politicians have mulled over while planning the Finnish forest strategy,” commends journalist Juha Kauppinen, who selected the winner of the competition.

“The text leaves the reader with an unvoiced question: is our policy on forest resources ambitious, far-reaching, smart, wise and honest? Soimakallio’s article should be on the reading list of everyone involved in the discussion on forest policy and bioenergy.”

Sampo Soimakallio is the Head of the Sustainable Use of Natural Resources Unit at the Finnish Environment Institute. He holds a title of Docent in environmental sciences, and his research is focused on the climate effects of the use of biomass and on the development of life cycle assessment and its use as support in policymaking.

The awarded article is originally published in the book Arktinen murros – Ilmastonmuutos ja luonnonvarojen käyttö pohjoisilla napa-alueilla (Into Kustannus 2017), which is edited by Eero Yrjö-Koskinen.

The Kone Foundation’s annual Tiedekynä award is presented to a scholarly publication that makes particularly outstanding use of the Finnish language. This year, the award was granted to a nomination from the field of environmental sciences. Presented for the eighth time, Vuoden Tiedekynä is the most significant award granted for academic writing in Finnish.

Read the winning article (in Finnish)

Read the blog post by Sampo Soimakallio on the award

Other nominees (in Finnish)


Image: Sampo Soimakallio photographed by Annukka Pakarinen. (C) Kone Foundation