Perfect storm for a forest bioenergy crisis – and how to address it
Despite overwhelming scientific evidence that forest bioenergy worsens climate change, with higher emissions than any other fuel including gas or coal, elements within the EC currently considering reform of RED II continue to give it their strong support.
There are however crucial opportunities, currently underexploited, for addressing this issue.
European Parliament Environment Committee call for moratorium on logging of old growth/primary forests
The temporary moratorium lays a clear path to effective protection, and should deter destruction or degradation of these forests in advance of any legislation.
It forms a key element in a package of suggestions launched by the Committee on 28th May for a Biodiversity Law they propose by 2022, backed with legally binding targets for 2030.
Other proposals include revision of rules for EU bioenergy production, currently enabling subsidy of commercial scale forest biomass burning despite this worsening climate change, to align with objectives of the EU Biodiversity Strategy and Climate Law.
The text will be voted in plenary on 7th June.
International conference for primary/old growth forest
A summit to catalyse joint action for the world’s remaining natural forests was co-hosted in webinars on 25/26th March by Wild Heritage and Wild Europe.
This represented the European element in a regional series under the auspices of the IntAct initiative, involving participation by Rebecka le Moine MP (Sweden), Ville Niinisto MEP (Finland) Michal Wiezik MEP (Slovakia) and others from the European parliament, with a range of international speakers and NGO expertise.
Former UNFCCC chief casts further doubt on wood bioenergy subsidies
Adding his voice to a growing chorus of scientific concerns that wood bioenergy burning worsens rather than resolves climate change, highly respected former UNFCC Vice Chairman of Jean-Pascal van Ypersele has issued a clear statement:
“To subsidise an activity that has negative consequences for the climate and the environment is totally contradictory with the goals of the Paris Agreement and the goals of the conference (COP26) due to take place in Glasgow at the end of the year.”
An EP Resolution on implementation of its annual EUAA Report on Ukraine, published 11th February, criticises planned development of this mega ski and recreation complex in the Zakarpattia oblast of the Ukrainian Carpathians, forecast to host 28,000 visitors per day.
The Resolution calls on the Ukrainian government to prevent widespread illegal logging – particularly of primeval forests – which it cites as the main cause of flooding in the region. It further calls on the EU to take steps help prevent such logging “in connection with the unlawful Svydovets ski resort project”.
Establishment of more protected areas in the country is also requested
Wild Europe’s Action Plan for large natural ecosystem areas – in EU and non EU countries – was launched on 11th January.
Described as ambitious but thoroughly practical, the Plan is strongly supportive of the EU Biodiversity Strategy and many of its key targets run in parallel:
Such targets are underpinned by recognition that adequate compensation must be paid to private landholders, alongside full activation of the Payment for Ecosystem Services agenda and significant support for carbon rich ecosystems from the Climate Fund. It is important to build common ground with inter-sector consensus to achieve this.
In December 2020 Wild Europe contributed to two consultations: on EU Forest Strategy and Restoration Targets.
At stake in determination of policy for the next decade are our fast-disappearing ecosystems and their wildlife.
The State of Nature in the EU Report published in October by the Environment Agency provides a grim backdrop: species in freefall decline, majority of habitats in unfavourable condition, climate change accelerating and budgets pressurised by COVID.
The potential offered by rewilding, with its focus on non-intervention and cost-effective nature based solutions, has never been more important.
Slovakian wilderness protection targets re-affirmed
President highlights targets at UN Summit
Major targets for non-intervention in national parks in the 2019 Greener Slovakia strategy were highlighted in a speech by President Caputova on 30th September at the UN Biodiversity Summit.
50% of NP area as non-intervention will be achieved by 2025.
75% will be achieved by 2030.
This clear re-affirmation should animate action to implement these protection targets in Slovakia itself, and be a useful catalyst for European governments generally. Another objective should, wherever possible, be attainment of IUCN Category I: complete non-intervention status.
President Caputova’s speech follows the unveiling earlier this year of a series of measures to strengthen environmental protection.
‘Model’ wilderness area in Alps based on Wild Europe definition
Author: Bernhard Kohler, WWF Austria
A wilderness area covering 6,700 hectares has been unveiled in the North West of Hohe Tauern National Park in Austria, following formal designation in 2019.
This is based on criteria from the Wild Europe definition and comes under the aegis of the Salzburg municipality.
The wilderness area has great promise as a model for the restoration strategy to implement targets in the 2030 Biodiversity Strategy – echoing Wild Europe’s own objectives of strict protection for at least 10% of EU and non-EU terrestrial areas.
Wild Europe proposes new approaches in the wood bioenergy campaign
The cost of wood burning for bioenergy continues to climb steeply.
A succession of scientific reviews has clearly demonstrated that a practice which now utilises nearly 50% of European timber output is not carbon neutral. It worsens climate change while destroying forest biodiversity, is notoriously energy-inefficient and wastes literally billions of euro annually in subsidies.
In Sound Science for Forests and Bioenergy, a newly released consultation document following its recent conference in Bratislava, Wild Europe proposes new approaches and alliances for tackling this situation. It calls in particular for wider engagement between conservationists, consumer groups, taxpayer associations and investment advisors.
Forestry leaders confirm their support for old growth forest
Clear support for the concept and value of old growth forest was expressed by leaders of the European forestry sector at the seminal EU International Conference on Forests for Biodiversity and Climate Change in Brussels.
Hubert de Schorlemer President of the Confederation of European Forest Owners (CEPF) – in grey suit – confirmed “If the small forests we still have which are really really old, we don’t afford to cut them down, no that’s clear“
Reinhardt Nerf, President of the European State Forest Association (EUSTAFOR) – in green jacket – stated “We see the very old forest as a focus of biodiversity and we take it out of timber usage”