Europe needs more food, not new restrictions
Natural gas is said to play such a small role in some European countries such as Finland, that replacing it is not a problem. Good, if that is the case. Natural gas was classified as sustainable in the financing taxonomy because Europe does not have the capacity to move quickly to zero emission energy production. Since there is no substitute, natural gas is sustainable. So be it. Platform of Sustainable Finance has proposed that peat would be considered as non-sustainable under climate criteria in Sustainable Finance Taxonomy.
There are currently no substitutes for horticultural peat. Just over 20 million cubic metres of horticultural peat is used in Europe, of which more than 10% comes from Russia and Belarus. I predict that imports this year will be lower than last year. However, demand for growing media is growing strongly in Europe because food production needs to be safeguarded. Shortages are inevitable.
The CO2 emissions of all the horticultural peat used in Europe is less than five million tonnes. For example, last year, Finland burned more than 12 million tonnes of sustainable natural gas (25 TWh). By all measures, the climate impact of horticultural peat is small.
Horticultural peat is used to grow seedlings for trees, cabbages and other vegetables to be further grown in fields as well as herbs, vegetables, lettuces, mushrooms, etc. grown in greenhouses. Horticultural peat is essential for food security. In a 2020 survey of Finnish Glasshouse Growers’ Association members, as many as 90% of Finnish commercial gardens said they could not continue to operate without peat. In Europe, around 30 million cubic metres of growing medium are used each year, of which 10% is completely peat-free. If no growing medium were used, the European horticulture sector would collapse.
In my opinion, the stubborn introduction of horticultural and bedding peat into the financial taxonomy, and even the risk of it being classified as non-sustainable, is simply not appropriate in this world situation, where food prices are soaring and the world food supply is heading for crisis. Many people may not know, but a lot of food, even in North Africa, is grown in Finnish horticultural peat.
EU acted very fast in creating sanctions against Russia, when they attacked Ukraine, sanctions have been set also against Belarus. Rising military readiness has also been taken quickly and firmly, at least theoretically.
These two projects that are hampering food production, the risk of extending the taxonomy of funding and the LULUCF reform, which is making it difficult to authorise production areas, must be stopped at this point, either on Finland’s initiative or with Finland’s support. In this situation, horticultural peat that promotes food production, and is fully recyclable and responsibly produced, should be classified as sustainable as a matter of urgency. The same applies to the bedding peat, which is essential to safeguard Finland’s milk and meat production.
Energy has been a hot topic in the discussion of the security of supply, but surprisingly very little has been said about food. Food isn’t important but hunger is a tragedy.
Unless the regulation and the law that I have mentioned above, which jeopardize food security, are stopped or amended, this will go down in history as a shot that was exceptionally well aimed and hit Finland and Europe in their foot.
Honourable representatives of the governments and oppositions and MEPs. Now is the time to act.
Director, Communications and Public Affairs, Neova Group