The UK is responding to urgent calls from scientists to take aggressive action on climate change over the next decade. The UK has a Committee on Climate Change that has enacted binding climate legislation. However, both the UK and the US fall short when it comes to one of the world’s best defenses we have in the climate crisis — forests. The biggest difference in their failures is that while we are not protecting our forests at home, the UK is burning our forests right now for electricity, and they’re relying on massive amounts of taxpayer dollars to do it. This burning of forests, called biomass, is a forest-destroyer and a waste of precious public resources that should be going towards true renewables.
Biomass (the industrial scale burning of forests) is making climate change worse. For the UK, industrial biomass burning puts their net-zero emissions target and desire to be a climate leader at risk.
- Degrades forests, destroys habitat, and threatens wildlife
- Increases global warming for decades to centuries, which is true even when the wood replaces coal, oil, or natural gas
- Harms human health by emitting dangerous air pollution
- Is a poor use of public funds that could be used for projects that are in harmony with nature such as solar and wind power
As the UK positions itself to host COP26, their government’s wholesale support for biomass must stop.
Drax power station is the biggest biomass plant in the world and the primary client of Enviva. Drax received over £4 billion in public funding between 2012 and 2019. Furthermore, Drax is trying to shore up even more public funding when its subsidies end in 2027 with pie-in-the-sky bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS) proposals. Recent analysis suggests BECCS will need an additional £31.7 billion in subsidies. Not only that, but biomass is extremely unpopular with the people. Two-thirds of the British public oppose the burning of wood from overseas forests for domestic energy production.
We have a huge opportunity to set the UK on a true path of fighting climate change and doing right by the public.
The government is consulting on the future of biomass and is due to come out with a new bioenergy strategy next year.
They should at the very least follow in the footsteps of the Netherlands, which imports biomass but has decided to put a halt to all biomass subsidies until a phaseout plan is in place. The Cut Carbon Not Forests coalition remains a leading voice in calling on the UK government to remove the vast subsidies paid to companies that burn forests for electricity.
We need to stop pretending that burning forests is “clean” energy. If the UK wants to be a real leader in tackling the climate emergency, false solutions like biomass should not receive another penny.
Biomass is a pseudo-renewable source of energy that will not satisfy the world’s needs. Burning wood is not just polluting, but terribly inefficient, as well as destructive and polluting.