Shadow on future of bioenergy as Drax’s own advisors deny its carbon neutrality
In statements which have dire implications for the future of the forest bioenergy industry, Drax Corporation’s own Advisory Board has told it to stop calling biomass ‘carbon neutral’. This warning comes amid a rising chorus of concern about the impact of the industry from scientists, politicians and investors alongside environmental NGOs.
Chaired by former UK chief scientific adviser Professor Sir John Beddington, the Advisory Board says Drax must “move away from saying ‘carbon stocks are increasing/stable’ and stating biomass is carbon neutral”, and “reassess its criteria for determining carbon neutrality”.
Meanwhile when questioned by Toby Aykroyd of Wild Europe at Drax’s Annual General Meeting on 26th April, its Chairman Philip Cox confirmed that Drax had not been reinstated following its expulsion in 2021 from the Dow S&P Clean Energy Index – which is compiled for investors – because of its high carbon emissions from wood burning. This reason was reaffirmed following a Financial Times newsletter enquiry in August 2022.
The Vjosa becomes Europe’s first Wild River National Park
The Vjosa in Albania, one of Europe’s last free-flowing natural rivers, was declared a national park by the government on 22nd March.
Its tributaries and a variety of ecosystems harbouring some 1,100 species including 15 under global threat, will be included in a second phase alongside creation of a trans-boundary park with Greece where it is known as the river Aoos.
This epic event brings protection to the 400 klm long watercourse, which originates in the Pindus Mountains of Greece, flowing to the Adriatic coast. Pollution, waste management and deforestation will be more closely addressed, while valuable tourism benefits can be delivered to local communities in one of Europe’s poorer areas.
New findings accentuate value of old growth forest in addressing climate change
A UK study published in December 2022 suggests carbon volume in larger trees is likely to be much higher than previously estimated.
This potentially has huge implications for the value of forests, old growth in particular, for mitigating climate change – and underlines a correspondingly much greater cost of their destruction.
The indepth study is based on 3D terrestrial laser scanning (TLS), a remote sensing technique that accurately captures the volume and mass of carbon from pulse emissions. This methodology supplants more sketchy estimates currently based on allometric models from calculation of tree diameter, which assume size and mass grow at a steady rate; these are deemed more suitable for trees less than 50 cm diameter.
Australia declassifies wood from natural forests as renewable energy
On 15th December Australia became the first G20 nation to renounce natural forests as a legitimate feedstock for bioenergy. They will no longer qualify for subsidies through Large-Scale Generation Certificates.
It underlines the need for strict protection of remaining primary/old growth forest, coinciding with the latest reporttodemonstrate a much higher carbon carrying capacity of larger trees than previously calculated.
The emphasis now is on ensuring achievement – with 2030 as the imminent target date, aligned to Paris Agreement timelines. Strategies from the EU for biodiversity and forests could provide useful models for the route ahead.
Meanwhile Wild Europe made useful progress with its allies, with considerable support gained for a Moratorium on primary forest logging, and for the importance of ‘natural ecosystems’ with ‘high integrity’ – the core of our agenda.