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A carbon sink calculation model for climate-friendly operations

Many municipalities want to become carbon-neutral. Achieving this goal requires reducing carbon dioxide emissions and fossil fuel use, and improving carbon sequestration. Carbon sinks are essential to this process, and a new model for calculating and verifying them has just been launched.

Researcher Olli-Pekka Siira found that although carbon emissions can usually be calculated fairly accurately, this was not the case for carbon sinks. This gave rise to the idea of designing a model for calculating regional carbon sinks, which could be used for purposes such as zoning forested areas and parks, and land use planning.

“This project was initially focused on carbon sinks in the Oulu region, but the work resulted in a concept that can be used more widely, too. The same model could be used to calculate the carbon sinks of all Finnish cities and towns.”

Ympäristötili, Oulun Energia, Olli-Pekka SiiraOulun Energia funded researcher Olli-Pekka Siira's project.

Nature can heal itself, but needs help

Because human activities are partly responsible for climate change, we also have the power to come up ways of combating it. As Siira notes, however, simply increasing forest area is not enough – emissions must also be cut.

“It is the combined effect of things that matters. We need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere and at the same time increase carbon sinks by promoting nature’s own activity and increasing plant cover. The planet’s ecosystem can hold itself together and is always striving for balance, but we can prevent climate change from intensifying by paying more attention to carbon sinks, as well.”

The project continues its life in the scientific community

During the phase in which the project was funded by Oulun Energia, Siira created a carbon sink calculation model within his own consulting company. He now works at the University of Helsinki, where, in a way, the carbon sink project continues.

“It’s great that I can now work on the same topic at the university. In other words, I will be working as part of the global scientific community on calculation models and carbon sinks in different ecosystems on a practical level. So living in the midst of climate change is not exactly hopeless – it is possible to find solutions to many problems. By continually updating and improving our understanding of things, we can make corrections along the way.”

A few facts about carbon emissions and sinks