Call for cessation of commercial bioenergy at UNFCC conference

Bonn 2024, Credit: UNclimatechange.

Representatives from five continents called to a rapid and drastic reduction in burning of forest biomass – dubbing it a ‘fake’ form of renewable energy – at the UN conference in Bonn on 8th June.

Wild Europe’s presentation, as part of this call, focused on the need to reallocate all existing official subsidies to alternative far more effective means of addressing climate change.

Current support for forest bioenergy totals some 8 billion EUR per year in the EU alone. This is likely to rise to over 30 billion EUR pa by 2050 if attempts are made to implement BECCS (Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage) – a highly expensive, technically compromised procedure never previously tried at scale.

A carbon farce

Forest bioenergy actually produces higher CO2 equivalent emissions than the fossil fuels it is supposed to replace, even coal, as the diagram below shows. Its pollutive content is also several times higher than genuine renewables. 

It only qualifies as ‘carbon neutral’ because skewed accounting conventions record emissions in the wood-producing country, where they are set against general increases in forest biomass and thus ‘lost’. The wood is then exported to power producing countries and burned, with the emissions from this not being counted. The power producer then receives a subsidy.

Relative lifecycle emissions of CO2e (equivalents), Credit: Trinomics Consultancy

The consequence is that climate change is worsened, massive areas of forest are destroyed and a severe toll is taken in respiratory illness.

Yet usage of forest bioenergy is set to double in volume by 2030 and quadruple by 2050 according to the International Energy Agency.

The rationale of burning trees to alleviate global warming is so blatantly absurd it risks bringing the entire campaign against climate change into disrepute” said Toby Aykroyd of Wild Europe “The huge wastage of consumers’ and taxpayers’ money involved even lends credibility to those who would cancel all subsidies for the green economy ”.

Forthcoming report on Renewable Energy & Climate Change Strategy (RECCS)

A report commissioned by Wild Europe is to be produced shortly by Trinomics, a well-known energy consultancy used by the European Commission, governments and major institutions. 

This will demonstrate that existing commercial forest bioenergy could be replaced at only 25 – 30% of the current cost if official subsidies cease and are transferred to alternative means of addressing climate change. These would include genuine renewables, demand suppression enterprises (insulation, recycling and fuel efficiency) and conservation of carbon absorbent ecosystems such as forests, wetlands and salt marshes.

Benefits from this restructuring to be cited by Trinomics will include: 

  • faster achievement of Paris climate targets
  • significant expansion of natural ecosystems 
  • a massively greater boost to economic growth, with far more higher wage, higher productivity jobs created 
  • a ‘ripple effect’ of technical innovation across many areas of industry. 
Renewables & carbon rich ecosystems – part of the genuine solution, Credit: IPFA and Gregoire Dubois

All of which also produces a much sounder, lower risk opportunity for investors.

Although primarily focused on Europe, the RECCS Report can be replicated elsewhere, and arrangements for this are already being made.

More to follow on other participants at Bonn