ASHEVILLE, N.C.— More than 110 groups from across the globe joined a declaration today demanding that bioenergy be excluded from the European Union’s next Renewable Energy Directive, or RED. The EU is considering renewal of the RED for 2020 onwards in a “consultation” ending today. A decision is expected by the end of the year.
The RED will determine Europe’s path forward on meeting its carbon emissions reductions targets following the Paris agreement signed December 2015. Bioenergy already accounts for around two-thirds of energy classed as renewable in the EU, and the EU currently anticipates that industrial bioenergy will continue playing a major part in its renewable energy strategy.
Burning wood for energy increases carbon pollution in the atmosphere for decades to centuries, published science shows. Indeed, so-called “biomass” is even more carbon-intensive than coal when measured at the smokestack. The EU, however, currently treats wood energy as “carbon neutral” despite contrary scientific evidence. This misguided policy has devastated communities and forests around the globe, including forests here in the United States, as European utilities compete for wood pellets and other biomass fuels.
“Rapidly increasing European demand for wood pellets globally, with the United States leading the way, is having a devastating impact on the forests and communities of the Southern U.S.,” said Adam Macon from Dogwood Alliance. “We’ve joined with over 110 other groups to send a strong signal to the EU and the U.S. EPA that they must change their mind on bioenergy or risk doing far more harm than good. It’s clear that support for bioenergy in the EU is directly impacting forests internationally and the people that depend on them, as well as incentivising even greater carbon emissions.”
In the U.S., the forest products industry and several states are pushing the EPA to classify biomass energy as a “carbon neutral” method of complying with the Clean Power Plan’s carbon pollution standards for power plants. Just last week the Senate adopted an amendment to a bipartisan energy bill that could force EPA and other agencies to ignore biomass carbon pollution despite the science.
“The science is clear that large-scale burning of wood to generate electricity will make the climate crisis worse, so it shouldn’t be used in Europe or the U.S.,” said Kevin Bundy, senior attorney and climate legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Native forests across the Southeast are being clearcut to satisfy European demand for wood pellets, all because the EU ignores climate pollution from bioenergy. The EU has to fix its anti-science mistake — and our own Congress has to avoid repeating it.”
The declaration submitted today demands that bioenergy not be defined and subsidized as renewable energy under the EU directive, citing growing scientific evidence that current EU bioenergy policy has done tremendous harm to people, forests and the climate. Industrial bioenergy is not “renewable” because biomass fuels are not replenished as quickly as they are consumed.
Carbon emissions from burning biomass for energy are often greater than the emissions from the fossil fuels they are supposed to replace. Peer-reviewed studies and on-the-ground investigations have shown that industrial-scale bioenergy results in significant carbon emissions and fuels the destruction of biodiverse forests from North America to southeast Asia and eastern Europe. These forests are vital carbon sinks. Biofuels in particular have become a major driver for land-grabbing in the global south and are, in many cases, linked to serious violations of land and labor rights.
To download the full declaration with a list of signatories, visit http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/BioenergyOut-Declaration.pdf. For more information on the EU RED consultation process, visit https://ec.europa.eu/energy/en/consultations/preparation-new-renewable-energy-directive-period-after-2020.
About Dogwood Alliance
Dogwood Alliance is a regional nonprofit organization that is increasing protection for millions of acres of Southern forests by transforming the way corporations, landowners and communities value them for their climate, wildlife and water benefits.
About the Center for Biological Diversity
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 990,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.