THE BIOMASS DELUSION

Position Statement on Forest Biomass Energy
[German] [Portuguese[Spanish]

We share a vision of a world in which thriving natural forests play a significant role in tackling climate change and contribute to a clean, healthy, just and sustainable future for all life on earth. Burning forest wood for large-scale energy production cannot be part of that future for all of the reasons outlined below. Instead we must protect and restore natural forests, thereby reducing emissions and removing atmospheric carbon dioxide while supporting biodiversity, resilience and well-being.

Large-scale burning of forest biomass for energy:

Harms the climate
It is not low carbon – Burning forest biomass for energy is not carbon neutral. It immediately emits large quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. In contrast it takes decades to centuries for forests to regrow and sequester the carbon, which is far too long to effectively contribute to the 1.5°C Paris Agreement target. Direct and indirect emissions from logging and the bioenergy supply chain also negatively affect its overall carbon balance.

It is encouraged by flawed accounting – Current carbon accounting rules incentivise forest bioenergy by considering biomass combustion as a zero-emission technology, expressed as zero emissions in the energy sector. The assumption is that all emissions are instead to be accounted for when the biomass is logged, placing the burden on the forest producer rather than the biomass consumer. Yet emissions accounting of forests in the land sector is fatally flawed and generally understates emissions. The true carbon cost of biomass burning rarely appears accurately on any country’s balance sheet.

Harms forests
It threatens biodiversity and climate resilience – Using forest biomass for energy can entrench, intensify and expand logging. This degrades forest ecosystems, depletes biodiversity and soils and harms forests’ ability to deliver ecosystem services like clean drinking water, flood protection, and clean air.  Conversion of forests and other ecosystems to industrial monoculture tree plantations for biomass is especially harmful. These increased impacts come at a time when we recognise that rights-based protection and ecological restoration improve the health and well-being of forests and make them more resilient to climate change and other environmental disturbances.

It undermines the climate mitigation potential of forests – To meet the Paris Agreement goal of pursuing efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, scientists now agree we will need to draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. A safe and proven way to do this is to protect and restore natural forests. Logging for biomass does the opposite.

Harms people
It undermines community rights and interests – Demand for biomass can exacerbate conflicts over land and forest resources, including land grabbing. This threatens rights, interests, lives, livelihoods and cultural values of indigenous and tribal peoples and local communities as well as established businesses relying on forest resources. The wide-ranging negative effects can also impact food security for the wider populace and for the long term.

It harms human health and well-being – Forests play an important role in safeguarding communities from the worst impacts of climate change. Those living at the front-lines of forest destruction are often most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and also face oppressive extractive industries. In addition, biomass manufacturing and combustion facilities are often located in areas of socio-economic disadvantage, where they pollute the air, increasing incidents of respiratory and other diseases. Local quality of life is affected.

Harms the clean energy transition
It provides a life-line for burning coal for energy production – Co-firing forest biomass with coal extends the life of coal power stations at a time when we need to move beyond emissive, industrial scale burning.

It pulls investment away from other renewables – Biomass undermines less emissive renewable energy solutions because it competes for the same government incentives. Unlike investment in low emission technologies, such as wind and solar, biomass energy entails ongoing feedstock costs and relies on continuous subsidies.

We, the undersigned organisations, believe that we must move beyond burning forest biomass to effectively address climate change. We call on governments, financiers, companies and civil society to avoid expansion of the forest biomass based energy industry and move away from its use. Subsidies for forest biomass energy must be eliminated. Protecting and restoring the world’s forests is a climate change solution, burning them is not.

To join these organisations in endorsing the Statement and working together, please confirm that you have read the statement and an endorsement form will appear. 

Complete list of signatories, in alphabetical order:

Abibiman Foundation Ghana
All India Forum of Forest Movements India
Alliance for a Clean Environment, Western Australia Australia
Alliance for the Wild Rockies USA
AMAF – Benin Benin
Amis de la Terre – Togo Togo
ARA Germany
Arise for Social Justice – Springfield USA
Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development
Australian Forest and Climate Alliance Australia
Australian Rainforest Conservation Society Australia
Ballina Environment Society Australia
BankTrack Europe
Battle Creek Alliance USA
Bellingen Environment Centre, NSW Australia
Biodiversity Conservation Center Russia
Biofuelwatch International
Birdlife Europe
Blue Dalian China
Bob Brown Foundation Australia
Busselton Dunsborough Environment Centre, WA Australia
California Chaparral Institute USA
Canberra Forest Network, ACT Australia
Canopee France
Canopy Canada
Censat Agua – Amigos de la Tierra Colombia Colombia
Center for Biological Diversity USA
Clarence Environment Centre, NSW Australia
Client Earth UK
Colectivo VientoSur Chile
Concerned citizens of Franklin County USA
Conservation Congress USA
Conservatree USA
Czech Coalition for Rivers Czech Republic
Defiance Canyon Raptor Rescue USA
denkhausbremen Germany
Doctors and Scientists against Wood Smoke Pollution International
Dogwood Alliance USA
Don’t Waste Arizona USA
Earth Ethics USA
Ecology Action Centre Canada
Econexus UK
Endangered Species Coalition USA
Environment East Gippsland Australia
Estonian Forest Aid Estonia
Federation of Community Forestry Users, Nepal (FECOFUN) Nepal
FERN Europe
Forest Media, NSW Australia
Forest observatory Morocco
Forests of the World Denmark
Forum Ecologie & Papier Germany
Forum Umwelt und Entwicklung Germany
Fresnans against Fracking USA
Friends of Siberian Forests Russia
Friends of the Earth Bosnia & Herzegovina Bosnia & Herzegovina
Friends of the Earth Finland Finland
Friends of the Earth U.S.A. USA
Friends of the Forest, mid South coast NSW Australia
Friends of the Wild Swan USA
Fund for Wild Nature USA
Fundacja “Rozwój TAK – Odkrywki NIE Poland
Geasphere South-Africa
GEOS Institute USA
Gesellschaft fur okologische Forschung e V. Germany
Global Forest Coalition International
Great Southern Forest, NSW Australia
Green Longjiang China
GreenLatinos USA
Greenpeace International International
Healthy Forest Coalition, Nova Scotia Canada
Henoi Paraguay
Humane Society International Australia Australia
Indigenous Environmental Network USA
Instytut Spraw Obewatelskich INSPRO Poland
Jamesville Positive Action Committee USA
Kalang Land and Environment Action Network, NSW Australia
Kalang River Forest Alliance, NSW Australia
Last Tree Laws USA
Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation USA
Les Amis de la Terre – Togo Togo
Margaret River Regional Environment Centre, WA Australia
Massachusetts Forest Rescue USA
Mighty Earth USA
Milieudefensie Netherlands
My Environment, Vic Australia
Nambucca Valley Conservation Association, NSW Australia
National Toxics Network, Australia Australia
Natural Resources Defense Council USA
Nimbin Environment Centre, NSW Australia
NOAH (FoE Denmark) Denmark
North Coast Environment Council, NSW Australia
North Columbia Environmental Society USA
North East Forest Alliance, NSW Australia
Partnership for Policy Integrity USA
Pivot Point USA
Protect the Forest Sweden
Public Lands Media USA
Rachel Carson Council USA
Rainforest Action Network USA
Rainforest Information Centre Australia
Rainforest Relief USA
Renourish USA
Restore: The North Woods USA
Rettet de Regenwald Germany
RICCE Liberia
RootsKeeper USA
Salva la Selva Spain
Santa Fe Forest Coalition USA
Sequoia ForestKeeper USA
Sierra Club USA
Sierra Club BC Canada
Snow Alliance China
Society for Responsible Design Australia
South East Forest Alliance Australia
South East Forest Alliance Australia
South East Forest Rescue Australia
South East Region Conservation Alliance Australia
South-West Forests Defence Foundation, WA Australia
Southern Environmental Law Center USA
STAND.earth USA
Sustainable Agriculture and Communities Alliance Australia
Swan View Coalition, Montana USA
Terra! Italy
The Corner House UK
The Development Institute Ghana
The John Muir Project USA
TUK Indonesia Indonesia
Western Australian Forest Alliance Australia
Wild Nature Institute USA
WildWest Institute USA
Women’s Environment & Development Organization USA – International
Womens Earth and Climate Action Network US & International
Woodland League Ireland
Woods Hole Research Center USA
Wuhu Ecology Centre China
Yellowstone to Uintas Connection USA
ZERO Portugal