The European Parliament’s decision to retain subsidies for burning forest biomass for energy tarnishes the EU’s reputation of leadership on renewable energy as it ignores recommendations of the Parliament’s own environment committee and entrench reliance on this highly emissive and environmentally destructive substitute for fossil fuels. This decision may be entrenched in forthcoming trialogue deliberations to finalise the RED 2 decision.

Peg Putt, coordinator of the Forest Biomass Working Group of the Environmental Paper Network said: “Europe is no longer an example to be followed as it continues to make 60% of its so-called “renewable” energy from biomass and biofuels, which is not low emissions energy at all. Alleged benefits of burning forest biomass are illusory and actually exacerbate climate change, which has been amply demonstrated by many scientists but roundly ignored.

Europe relies on flawed carbon accounting conventions to look good by not counting the emissions of combustion of wood in the energy sector, unlike those for fossil fuels which do appear in those carbon accounts. Then the EU subsidises burning wood to encourage its use, even though it emits more GHGs per unit of energy than does burning coal. Subsidies to burning forest wood also undermine subsidies to genuinely low emissions technologies like solar and wind energy.

“In the case of the huge imports of wood from outside Europe, the EU will not take any responsibility at all for the emissions of combustion of forest biomass for that energy production in Europe, which is instead offshored to the producing country who must take responsibility for Europe’s apparently decreasing emissions. If the imports are from the forests of the global south, as they increasingly will be, this is Europe practising climate colonialism”, Peg Putt said.

Meanwhile Europe’s own forests are also plundered for biomass burning, running down the carbon storage and sink capacity of those forests and destroying biodiversity just when these forests are needed more than ever to keep carbon out of the atmosphere and to maintain our collapsing natural diversity.

A forest of loopholes undermines the claims to have restricted subsidies for burning primary forest biomass and subsidies for electricity-only power plants.

We will call Europe out on the world stage at COP 27 for this epic fail. This is bad faith pretence at climate action that is making things worse in this time of crisis. We will urge a change to the flawed carbon accounting rules of the UNFCCC for forest biomass that enable and drive this environmentally destructive climate deception”, Putt said.

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Contact: Ms Peg Putt, Forest Biomass Working Group, Environmental Paper Network +61 418 127 580 (based in Tasmania), peg.putt@gmail.com