US Environmental NGOs to EU Parliament: Vote Now to Protect Forests
Bioenergy loopholes in the 2030 Renewable Energy Directive will increase forest cutting and carbon pollution
Washington, DC, 15 January 2017 – Warning of increased carbon pollution and accelerating forest degradation, U.S. environmental NGOs are calling on Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to ban use of whole trees as fuel in the European Union’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED) and limit subsidies to only efficient uses of forest biomass for electricity production. A decision to the contrary risks setting back efforts to address climate change and increases the threat to vulnerable forests in the Southern United States.
“Unfortunately, EU policies to date have meant one step forward and two steps back for the climate,” said Sasha Stashwick, a Senior Advocate with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Not only does the practice of burning stumps and stemwood in inefficient power plants increase carbon pollution compared to coal, it destroys a front-line defense in our fight against climate change: forests. This was never the intent of the RED, and MEPs now have a chance to close these ‘biomess’ loopholes. Together, these commonsense reforms could mean the end of the worst forms of EU bioenergy. Without them, the EU risks undermining its commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement, and its role as a global leader on environmental sustainability.”
U.S. ENGOs urge MEPs to support Article 26.5, which would exclude the burning of stemwood and stumps from subsidies or other policy incentives, and to oppose attempts to weaken Article 26.8 of the EU Commission’s draft proposal, which would require large, biomass-burning plants that receive renewable energy subsidies or other public incentives to use ‘co-generation’ technology to produce combined heat and power.
Since 2009, the European Union has treated all forest biomass as having zero emissions, despite the fact that biomass power stations tend to emit more carbon dioxide (CO2) per megawatt-hour than coal plants. EU member states subsidize biomass-burning in some of their least efficient power stations, and biomass is exempted from regulation under the European Union’s carbon trading scheme. The result has been a massive influx of imported wood pellets to feed a rapidly expanding biomass electricity market.
Much of the pellets are manufactured in the Southeastern United States, with trees harvested from both plantations and native forests. Over the last five years, the export of wood pellets from the United States to Europe to fuel power stations has grown exponentially to over 5.4 million tons per year.
“EU imports of forest biomass for electricity threaten some of the most ecologically valuable forests in the world,” said David Carr, General Counsel at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “This includes the roughly 20% of all pre-settlement bottomland hardwood forests that remain today in the Southeastern United States, a region whose coastal plain has been recognized as a global biodiversity hotspot. If the EU doesn’t take action, these vulnerable forests and their at-risk wildlife will remain in the bullseye of the European biomass market.”
“Climate scientists tell us that we need to plant trees to take CO2 out of the atmosphere, not burn them for energy,” said Mary Booth, Director of the Partnership for Policy Integrity. “We already see destruction of forests for fuel, and this will only worsen as biomass demand increases.”
“Southern communities impacted by logging are already experiencing the worst impacts of climate change due to flooding and intensified storms. Forests are one of the best climate solutions we have and we need to be conserving, restoring, and expanding our forests, not cutting them down,” said Adam Macon, Program Director at Dogwood Alliance. “Wood pellet production is a major social justice issue in the U.S. Southeast. In our region, forest degradation and polluting pellet manufacturing are twice as likely to take place in low-income communities of color that already suffer severe health effects from air pollution. Our Southern communities can no longer afford to have their forests cut down and shipped overseas for energy.”
For more information, please contact Scot Quaranda, +1.828.242.3596, [email protected]