No more burning trees for energy: MEPs vote on new renewables directive
2 min read

No more burning trees for energy: MEPs vote on new renewables directive

In a marathon voting session on climate and energy related policy files, the European Parliament’s Environment Committee last night voted to stop the scandalous practice of burning trees for energy, increased the target for carbon emissions in the land use sector slightly, but failed to demand that member states set a date for reaching climate neutrality.

“MEPs clearly got the memo: some types of renewables do more harm than good” said Alex Mason, Head of EU Climate and Energy Policy at WWF European Policy Office. “It is finally dawning on a majority of policy makers that burning trees in the name of climate change is not the best idea, and that turning crops into biofuels will also increase emissions compared to fossil fuels. MEPs have also excluded new small hydropower plants, which would bring negligible benefits in energy terms but cause serious harm to river ecosystems.”

“The position on biomass, in particular, if confirmed by the plenary in June, would represent genuine progress on a policy that for years has been a stain on EU climate leadership,” he concluded.

On the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) Regulation, MEPs voted for a slight increase of the Commission’s proposed target for carbon removals, and to keep the LULUCF target separate from agriculture.

Alex Mason, Head of EU Climate and Energy Policy, said: “It’s a no-brainer really: The cheapest, most effective, and easiest way to increase Europe’s carbon sinks is to protect and restore our forests, peatlands, and other natural ecosystems. So it’s welcome that MEPs have voted for a modest increase to the Commission’s paltry target for carbon removals, but unfortunately not by as much as Rapporteur Ville Niinistö had proposed. They’ve also voted to keep the LULUCF sector separate and rejected the Commission’s plan to lump it together with agriculture, which is good news for the climate.”

On the Effort-Sharing Regulation (ESR), the vote was less encouraging. The Committee endorsed the Commission's proposal to raise the 2030 climate sectors on key sectors from 30% to 40%. MEPs left untouched many of the offsetting loopholes allowing EU governments to claim that they meet their climate target without actually reducing emissions, including current so-called 'flexibility' between the ESR and the LULUCF sectors. They also failed to oblige governments to set a target date for achieving climate neutrality.

Romain Laugier, Climate & Energy Policy Officer, WWF European Policy Office, said:

“The Fit for 55% package is looking at climate ambition up to 2030, and for good reasons. But a decarbonisation plan is only solid if it ends in climate neutrality, and many EU countries today have no idea when they will reach net zero. Today, MEPs have missed an opportunity to implement the European Climate Law and demand that EU countries set their own climate neutrality date”.

“The plenary vote in June will constitute the final opportunity to improve on this disappointing result while consolidating improvements, such as on access to justice or transparency,” he concluded.

The full committee reports on these three files will be voted on this morning, and voting also continues today and tomorrow on other key climate files, including the ETS and the Carbon Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), and tomorrow for the Social Climate Fund.

The plenary votes on these files are scheduled for June, while on 18 May, the European Commission is expected to present its REPowerEU legislative proposals underpinning its strategy to wean the EU off Russian fossil fuels from March.

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