For immediate release November 25, 2019
Before a crucial vote occurs November 26 in the Netherlands on a coal ban and biomass subsidies, environmental organisations from the United States & Estonia demand the Netherlands close its coal power stations without converting them to biomass and redirect subsidies supporting the burning of wood to genuinely low-carbon renewable energy such as wind and solar power.
In an open letter from NGOs in the sourcing region of Netherlands utility RWE’s biomass demand- the United States and Estonia- and joined by concerned international organizations, Dutch Climate Minister Wiebes & members of the Dutch House are warned that transitioning from coal to biomass would be simply replacing one carbon-intensive energy source for another. The Netherlands already subsidizes the burning of 3.5 million tonnes of wood pellets each year heavily. Those subsidies make it profitable for energy companies to continue burning coal for several more years, and result in wasted public resources, ruined forests, harmful community impacts, and biodiversity loss.
“Biomass is the new coal. Burning biomass increases carbon in the atmosphere and means warming for decades to centuries. We need to protect and expand forests as part of our climate strategy— we cannot log and burn our way to a stable climate future,” says Rita Frost, Campaigns Director at Dogwood Alliance.
“Estonian forests are experiencing most intensive exploitation in history as logging rates are record high. This puts a huge pressure on forest biodiversity and damages both the carbon stock and sink for decades to come, limiting our own possibilities for achieving carbon neutrality. The logging incentive driven by wood burning subsides in other countries is an unnecessary fuel for this environmental destruction,” says Siim Kuresoo, Estonian Fund for Nature.
Massive new subsidy payouts have recently been approved by the Dutch government and the Netherlands is at serious risk of compromising its climate goals by locking in dirty bioenergy infrastructure for years to come. Three of the Netherlands’ newest coal plants face early closure due to a climate coalition agreement. Emerging science makes it clear that biomass is a risky investment that cannot be afforded when time and money are of the essence to tackle climate change.
In order to respond responsibly to the climate emergency, the NGOs make it clear to the Netherlands that allowing for the conversion of coal stations to biomass is an impediment to the clean energy transition. Greenlighting biomass provides a life-line for dirty infrastructure and pulls investments away from true renewables like wind & solar power.
Current policies that treat biomass as carbon-neutral do not reflect their real impacts on the climate and public money should only be used to subsidize technologies that genuinely reduce carbon emissions.