Yesterday, Chatham House, a well-respected research organization in the UK released a new report revealing that EU renewable energy policy is flawed when it comes the assumption that burning wood for electricity is carbon neutral. The report, Woody Biomass for Power and Heat: Impacts on the Global Climate, shows that in most cases producing power from trees is actually increasing carbon emissions instead of reducing emissions. The report also takes aim at the billions in subsidies that have been and are being provided to the biopower industry. Dogwood has been leading on this issue through the Our Forests Aren’t Fuel Campaign and is working with frontline communities, progressive elected officials, allies and concerned citizens like you to push back the growth of this industry.
Some of the key report’s findings include:
- Burning wood produces more carbon dioxide, methane and nitrogen dioxide than coal
- Definitions around “waste wood” are largely being exploited as biomass producers are using whole trees and calling it waste. In fact, the report details that approximately three quarters of all wood used by pellet manufacturers in the Southeast is coming from whole trees
- Forests that are left to grow continue to soak up carbon, so, in essence, biomass uses trees for energy, degrading our best technology for carbon sequestration while calling it a climate solution
- Assuming that re-growth after harvest will enable the absorption of the carbon dioxide emitted at the smokestack is a false assumption as this can take up to centuries if forests do, in fact, regrow
- It is nonsensical to assume that “sustainably” derived wood is the same thing as carbon neutrality even though many biomass proponents are now trying to make this case
While Dogwood Alliance and a range of environmental organizations in the US and the EU have been sounding the alarm on this issue for a number of years, it is heartening to see a credible and well-respected research institution make it plain. Let’s hope that policymakers listen to the science, focus on real solutions, and do more to protect forests globally as standing forests are one of the best solutions we have for addressing climate change.