As The Netherlands Takes Steps to Protect Forests, The UK Moves Further into The Biomass Fire

The Netherlands was one of the first European countries to fall for the myth of biomass as clean and green renewable energy. One of a handful of European countries that did not have a clear path forward to meet EU-wide 20% fossil fuel reduction and 20% renewable energy targets, they assumed that switching from coal to burning our Southern forests for electricity would be a good step towards true renewables like wind and solar. Fortunately, they discovered this was a mistake before it was too late and have been aggressively working to limit their biomass supply to waste and not forests like our bottomland wetland forests that are supplying countries like the UK and Denmark right now.

Dogwood’s Adam Colette, Programs Director, and Rita Frost, Campaigns Manager, met with Suzanne Kröger (middle), Green Parliamentarian in the Netherlands, last May to discuss how the Netherlands could better ensure true sustainability standards for biomass.

It’s clear that the Dutch sustainability requirements are set very high.

For years, the wood pellet biomass industry has been trying to claim it’s green through shoddy certification schemes like the Sustainable Biomass Partnership (SBP) and the American Tree Farm System (ATFS).

These schemes were denied approval for subsidies by the Dutch government at the beginning of 2018. Largely due to the concerted efforts of our campaign partners, led by NRDC, now the industry’s biggest greenwash certification scheme, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), has been eliminated from contention because the Dutch called them out on not actually doing enough to protect forests.

This is a signal to biomass producers that “sustainability certifications” won’t cut it for countries interested in biomass that doesn’t harm the environment.

Schemes like the Sustainable Forestry Initiative may have sustainable in their names but, as the saying goes,

“You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.”

For threatened Southern forests, this means that the Netherlands won’t accept wood pellets from forests certified by SFI, SBP, and ATFS. It’s nearly impossible for slimy US-based wood pellet manufacturer, Enviva, to enter into a long-term contract with Dutch buyers. All this goes to show that biomass is not the “sustainable” resource it claims to be.

While the Netherlands is paving the way for which kinds of biomass should and should not be acceptable, the UK is stepping further into the proverbial biomass fire.

UK-based Drax power station burns more wood in a year than the entire UK produces.

The energy biomass provides is still less than 1% of the UK’s total energy needs. That is the opposite of efficient and sustainable.

Lynemouth coal power station is converting to biomass and is scheduled to start burning trees later in 2018. MGT Power (owned by Macquarie Group and the Danish pension fund PKA) is building what will be the world’s largest dedicated biomass power plant, to open in 2020. While the UK’s own scientific findings are showing that facilities like Drax are neither sustainable nor cost effective, UK policies directly conflict. UK Energy Secretary Claire Perry, needs to end these climate-wrecking subsidies and look instead to solar and wind.

The Netherlands is showing that sustainability isn’t just a buzzword.

The Netherlands is showing Europe that they’ve got to walk the walk, and burning Southern forests is not the way to a clean energy future.

The Netherlands’ rejection of SFI and all those other shady schemes is a signal to the UK – the top burner of biomass in the world – that they need to give up on all this greenwashing. If the UK had real standards for biomass that didn’t hurt our forests and our planet, they would realize that biomass doesn’t make economic or environmental sense and Drax would have to close down its forest-burning operations.

We commend the Netherlands’ efforts that will ultimately ensure greater protections for forests in the Southern US. While we contend that to be true climate champions, no biomass burning is acceptable and the Netherlands can do more to protect forests, we support their dismissal of bad certifications. For now, others, like the UK, can be more responsible biomass users by ending support for certification schemes that allow for the continued destruction of our precious forests.

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