RMK’s Climate Change Department has prepared the RMK Carbon Report, an overview of how much carbon RMK sequestered and how much it emitted in 2021. The carbon stock of all land and forest owned by RMK was also calculated.

Worthy carbon sink

About one third of Estonian land is under the use of RMK, among forest as well other lands (eg. bogs, grasslands). The carbon stock shows how much carbon is stored in the area. As at 2021, RMK had 258.9 million tonnes of carbon stock locked up in its lands. Two thirds of the carbon was stored in soil and one third in trees. Forests and forest land accounted for 85% of the carbon stock, and nonforested land for 15%.

The carbon stock included carbon stored in the soil as well as carbon in aboveground sections of trees (trunk, canopy) and the belowground part (roots).

Carbon captured annually

Alongside a large carbon stock, which is already locked up underground for the most part, forests capture new carbon dioxide molecules from the atmosphere every year. Carbon sequestration depends on the growth rate of the forest. Carbon sequestration is higher in young and middle-aged forests and lower in older forests.

In 2021, RMK’s forests, forestland and non-forest land sequestered 5.67 million tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere. Most of this was sequestered by growing forest, with peatlands being the main sinks among other lands, locking carbon into peat.

About half of the carbon sequestered during the year – 2.89 million tonnes of CO2 – was extracted from the forest by RMK in the form of timber from clear cutting. In long-lasting wood products, this carbon remains locked up for many decades, and the manufacture of such products provides jobs for many people in Estonia. In addition, the substitution effect offered by wood, i.e., the fact that wood and wood-based materials can replace fossil fuels, plastics, steel and concrete, is very important. Unlike wood, these materials are not based on renewable resources and therefore have a more severe impact on the environment and climate.

Important to know

  • The main greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), which are expressed as a CO2 equivalent (hereafter CO2) for consistency.
  • Trees sequester carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air, but carbon (C) is stored in them and in other plants and soil. Based on molecular mass, one tonne of carbon equals 3,7 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Carbon and climate change

  • Carbon is all around us. It is in permanent circulation. Much of the carbon is in the oceans, a large amount is trapped in the ground, while a portion is suspended in the atmosphere.
  • Plants, including trees in forests, absorb carbon dioxide from the air and store it within themselves. The problem arises when the atmosphere fills up with it faster than the vegetation and ocean are able to absorb it. Excessive amounts of greenhouse gases raise the temperature of the atmosphere – the climate is warming.

RMK’s footprint

The extraction of carbon from forests in the form of timber is inevitably linked to activities that have an impact on the climate. Carbon is also released when you visit the forest to plant or when receiving visitors. To estimate carbon emissions, all activity by RMK was measured. Carbon emissions from various forestry activities (planting, maintenance, felling, chipping of energy timber, and the transport of timber to the customer) were taken into account, as well as carbon emissions related to nature conservation work, ditch and road maintenance, employee travel and RMK’s offices, visitor centres, nurseries and separately even the Põlula Fish Farm.


During the year, RMK emitted 0.065 million tonnes of CO 2 during the course of its activities. For comparison, this is about 1% of the amount of carbon sequestered annually on land owned by RMK. Carbon was mainly emitted from forest management operations, and more specifically from the fossile fuels used there. The impact of RMK’s various works is shown in the adjacent table and more details on the development of these numbers can be found in the full text of the carbon report.

Balance is strongly in the black

Taking into account the carbon sequestered by RMK’s forest, forest land, and other lands (5.67 million tonnes of CO 2), minus the carbon extracted from the forest in the form of timber (2.89 million tonnes of CO 2) and the carbon emis - sions related to RMK’s activities (0.065 million tonnes of CO 2), the result is a positive carbon footprint of 2.71 million tonnes of CO 2 sequestered from the atmosphere in 2021.

The Ministry of the Environment has released the preliminary greenhouse gas inventory data for 2020, according to which Estonia emitted 11.58 million tonnes of CO 2 in 2020. Most of this (8.29 million tonnes) was emitted by the energy and transport sectors. Comparing these figures, it can be argued that the carbon sequestered on RMK’s land covers a quarter of Estonia’s annual carbon emissions.

In Estonia, sustainable forest management is one of the, if not the only, ways to capture large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere and contributes to mitigating the effects of climate change. Through smart forest management, including timely cutting, channelling timber into long-term products, and high-quality and rapid reforestation, RMK can make a significant contribution to climate change mitigation.

EVALUATION CHAIN

The calculation of carbon stocks and sequestra - tion is based on RMK inventory data. RMK knows the forest reserves in its possession and the volume increment. There are also descriptions of the volume of timber on non-forest land prepared through the use of remote sensing.

In the case of carbon stock, the carbon stored in the woody biomass (for each tree species) and the carbon stock in the soil were calculated. Carbon sequestration is calculated on the basis of the current annual increment, which is estimated for each tree species. Added to this is other plant production: twigs, roots, leaves, thorns, ground vegetation, and underbrush. Generally speaking, 80% of all woody biomass is located above ground and 20% underground.

Depending on the tree species, stem wood accounts for 80–90% of total above-ground biomass. The proportion of carbon varies in the different parts of the tree, and the calculations of the carbon report are based on the assumption that 50% of the dry mass of wood is carbon.

Soil respiration, or emission from soils, has been found based on results evaluated in scientific research, for mineral soils and peat soils separately.

Carbon sequestration was estimated using the NEP (net ecosystem production) method, which assesses whether an ecosystem acts as a sink or source of carbon. In the course of the method, total plant production that sequestrates carbon through photosynthesis has been calculated and the emission from the soil by soil respiration has been deducted from it. The difference between plant production and soil respiration indicates whether the ecosystem is carbon sequestering or carbon emitting.

Experts from the Environmental Agency and the Estonian Environmental Research Centre have been consulted in the preparation of the carbon report. The calculations and inputs used have been reviewed by Veiko Uri, Professor, Academician, Estonian University of Life Sciences.

References to the research and input materials used in the preparation of the RMK carbon report, together with a more detailed description of the calculation procedure, can be found in the full text of the carbon report. It is available for review on the RMK website.