Most forest biomass harms climate, biodiversity, or both - EU Commission
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Most forest biomass harms climate, biodiversity, or both - EU Commission

Thousands of citizens are telling the EU to #stopfakerenewables.

A European Commission report concludes that most forest biomass produces more greenhouse gas emissions than coal, oil and gas. And in 23 out of the 24 scenarios the Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) examined, biomass had a negative impact on climate, biodiversity, or both.

Indeed the report, published yesterday, finds that most of the forest biomass currently being burnt for energy in the EU not only increases emissions compared to fossil fuels, but does so for decades - which would imperil the EU’s net zero target for 2050 and chances of stopping runaway climate change.

Despite the fact that EU energy policy currently incentivises burning the type of biomass the Commission’s report shows is dangerous and counter to EU climate policy, the Commission fails to draw the conclusion that current EU energy policy must therefore be changed. Instead, it calls for national corrective measures.

Alex Mason, Senior Policy Officer at WWF’s European Policy Office, said:
“The Commission is shirking its responsibility. It basically admits in this report that EU bioenergy policies are accelerating climate change, then lobs the ball into the court of Member States to fix the problem. We urgently need biomass rules to be tightened in the EU Renewable Energy Directive before any more damage is done.”

The report also finds that:

  • Only one of the 24 scenarios for forest biomass use that Commission scientists looked at - the limited use of ‘fine’ harvest residues - was judged likely to provide short term emissions reductions compared to fossil fuels without compromising biodiversity. And even in that case ‘short term’ means emissions would be higher than fossil fuels for as long as twenty years.
  • What matters from a climate perspective is what is being burned, not how sustainably it was produced nor what’s happening to forest carbon stocks overall. But this issue - any restriction on feedstocks - is precisely what is lacking from the Renewable Energy Directive currently. Nearly 800 scientists made exactly this point to EU legislators in 2018.

The JRC report had been promised in the EU’s biodiversity strategy and is expected to inform Commission proposals due in June on the reform of the Renewable Energy Directive.

An online petition, 'Burning trees is not a climate solution' has been set up by Birdlife with the support of WWF and others to encourage people to respond to the Commission’s public consultation, which is open until 9 February. You can respond to the petition here to tell the Commission to 'stop fake renewables.'

Alex Mason
Senior Policy Officer, WWF European Policy Office

Sarah Azau
Communications manager, WWF European Policy Office

Most forest biomass is harmful to biodiversity, or the climate, or both © Marjan Houpt

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