Dogwood Alliance staff members Adam Macon and Scot Quaranda joined coalition partners Sasha Stashwick from Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Derb Carter of Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) to travel as a delegation to Europe to discuss the implication of EU and UK biomass policy on the forests and communities of the Southern US. Thanks to the growing controversy generated by on-the-ground evidence of forest destruction, thousands of Southerners speaking up to protect their communities and forests, and improved carbon science, our message is being heard loud and clear.
On our first delegation to Europe in November 2013, there were big hurdles. We had to combat several myths about the impacts, scale and potential for growth of the wood pellet industry held firm by policy makers. Big companies like Drax, Enviva, and Electrabel had been feeding government officials, decision-makers and the media misinformation and empty rhetoric. Now, just 15 months later, we have proof that our message got through.
Today these decision makers are clear that the use of our forests for fuel is an area of big concern.
We no longer need to debate whether it is just waste wood or residuals; they all understand that the wood pellet industry and utilities are using whole trees.
The forest carbon debate has come a long way, too, with very few people holding onto the false concept of carbon neutrality. Instead folks are trying to understand the intricacies and how to move forward without destroying more forests and our climate.
Industry myths are crumbling, and hardly anyone still believes that burning wood for electricity is a long-term solution to climate change.
Though this important progress has been made, we still have a long way to go. Bioenergy policies in Europe are still driving forest destruction, and, while new policies are being debated, nothing is certain. The toughest challenges are still ahead.
We’ve clearly upset the balance of power for big utilities and the wood pellet manufacturers.
It appears the US International Pellet Association is responding to our delegation to Europe. They’ve asked their members to write a letter because anti-biomass campaigners (that’s us) are in Europe misleading policy makers. Though they’ve raised the stakes, we doubt they’ll generate over 50,000 letters like our coalition did last November!
Just last week, the US Forest Service released a report about the importance of biomass, claiming that everything was rosy despite the fact that the report itself showed that biomass has increased forest destruction and will likely lead to mass conversion of natural forests to plantations.
It’s been a long first week, but we’ve been energized by our amazing allies here in Europe.
In addition to our meetings with government officials in London and Brussels, some we also attended an inspiring public meeting organized by Biofuelwatch and hosted by Friends of the Earth UK and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). 60 people showed up to that event eager learn about how the UK is driving the destruction of Southern forests. We also participated in a major environmental organization gathering that featured 70 people representing 20 countries. This gathering sponsored by Birdlife International, European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and Transport & Environment gave us the opportunity to share stories and strategize.
Thankfully we are ready to meet greater challenges from industry. Over the next 10 days that we’re in Europe, we’ll continue to push. We’ll come home to the Southern US ready to build a stronger campaign to stop the destruction of our forests for electricity.