Statement: EU Biodiversity Strategy Offers New Hope for Southern Forests

The EU announces a new Biodiversity Strategy including a review of its flawed biomass policy, creating opportunity for real climate action to protect standing forests

Asheville, NC, USA – Late last week, the EU announced its new Biodiversity Strategy, which many are hailing as a landmark moment for European forests. The Strategy outlines land protection targets, strict protection of old growth forests, and guidelines for management practices that respect biodiversity objectives.

In addition to European forests, help may also be on the way for Southern US forests. The newly released strategy wisely includes a critical look at current EU biomass policy by the end of 2020 in order to inform the review of the Clean Energy Package and and ensure alignment of Europe’s increasing bioenergy demand with necessary climate and biodiversity goals set out in the European Green Deal.

Last year, the EU adopted a new Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) that unfortunately allowed European countries to continue burning forests for energy to meet their goals. A majority of the wood burned in major power stations across the continent comes from wood pellet mills in the Southern US. These wood pellet mills run by bad actors like Enviva have led to major destruction of wetlands and standing forests across the Southern Coastal plain, in addition to heavily polluting overburdened rural communities. Countries including the UK, Denmark, and the Netherlands are burning our forests on a large-scale.

The assessment mentioned in the strategy will feed into an ongoing review to revise those rules 10 years ahead of schedule with the aim of eliminating controversial sources of the wood from the mix and ideally incorporating more accurate accounting for carbon emissions from burning wood, which are up to three times higher than burning fossil fuels.

With this review, we urge the EU to align its biomass policy with their climate and biodiversity goals. We believe it is of utmost importance that the EU eliminate whole trees from being burned for electricity, which we have shown time and time again through investigations that this practice is the largest source of wood pellets coming from our region. Additionally, we call on the EU to ensure that whereas sustainability standards are important, proper carbon accounting must be put in place to eliminate biomass as a renewable energy source when superior options are available such as wind, solar, and geothermal.

We expect the EU’s biodiversity strategy will help protect biodiversity here in the States and move beyond the destructive practices that its current biomass policy allows. We will continue to work with our allies in the EU to ensure that our forests aren’t fuel.

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