Climate Northern Ireland Logo
Restricting forest bioenergy

Restricting forest bioenergy 22 October 2019

Experts call for restriction of ‘climate–damaging’ forestry bioenergy (via Green News)

By Niall Sargent

A European scientific academy has warned that the EU’s large–scale substitution of fossil fuels with forest biomass may lead to the bloc overshooting its climate targets.

A paper from the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC) published this month in Global Change Biology indicates that there is a serious mismatch between the science and EU policy on forest bioenergy.

The Council, that provides independent, expert, evidence–based to policy–makers, found that large subsidies offered to switch from fossil fuels to forest biomass such as wood pellets may increase emissions levels – a problem that it says is both bad for the climate and bad for public finances.

The problem stems from the decision to class biomass as carbon–neutral renewable energy under the EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED) in 2009. The idea is that any carbon lost through felling and burning is recaptured and fixed back in the soil through replanting.

This led to large renewable energy subsidies being made available in member states and a subsequent rapid increase in the use of biomass products, including at Bord na Mona’s Edenderry plant where biomass burning with peat is subsidised.

US wood pellet exports to Europe, for example, soared from 530,000 tonnes in 2009 when the RED came into effect to over six million tonnes in 2018.

In reality, however, EASAC argues that woody biomass harvesting releases high levels of emissions as all the carbon in the biomass enters the atmosphere “in one pulse”.

In addition, emissions are released during production, transportation and burning, with woody biomass often requiring more power than fossil fuels to burn due to the high water content in wood.

Read more here…