End Carbon Fuels – a unified approach for climate campaigners

Wood burning Drax – a renewable energy image bathed in natural greenness

Wild Europe is promoting closer coordination between networks campaigning to abolish fossil fuels and those seeking to end commercial scale forest bioenergy.

This was the focus of a webinar co-hosted with Europe Beyond Coal on 19th October, featuring 29 organisations from both networks, and agreement reached on the mutual benefit of closer links.  

There is a paradox whereby much-needed success in phasing out fossil fuels can, if these are replaced by forest biomass burning, worsen climate change.

With COP26, subsequently held in Glasgow, deciding to only “phase down unabated coal”, and thus encouraging bioenergy co-firing to prolong the life of fossil fuels, the need for this collaboration became more urgent. 

Proposals for a series of collaborative actions have since been circulated, including:

  • sharing and signing each other’s petitions, where feasible 
  • swopping information on events 
  • sharing campaigning experience and techniques for policy, opposing individual plants, addressing financiers 
  • promoting joint statements in reports, policy statements, conferences 
  • working/lobbying in collaboration wherever possible 

A further webinar to discuss and advance progress was held on 11th May.

Those providing input have included leading scientists such as Mike Norton, Head of Environmental Policy at the European Academies of Science Advisory Council (EASAC), politicians such as Ville Niinisto MEP (European Parliament rapporteur on LULUCF Reform), and a broad range of NGOs from anti fossil fuel and forest bioenergy networks.

And worse is to come

Gas from Russia to Europe – the road to nowhere?

The gas crisis arising from the Ukraine war has further exacerbated the position – reviving plans for coal firing, and lending renewed vigour to proponents of forest burning and gas fracking in the scrabble for supposed ‘energy security’ (where is the security in 2%+ planetary temperature increases?). 

Meanwhile soaring energy prices have encouraged calls for suspension of premium payments for renewables paid by consumers.

All this strengthens further the need for closer collaboration between fossil fuel and forest bioenergy, unified under a theme of End Carbon Fuels.

Mutual support, mutual benefit

This can support the excellent End Fossil Fuels campaigns, enabling joint pressure to oppose extending longevity of coal power stations by conversion to co-firing, or complete conversion. 

It can equally remove the present unintended contradiction in policy, whereby replacement of gas by forest bioenergy can produce very significantly higher emissions.

Moreover, forest bioenergy groups have been gaining knowledge from fossil fuel campaign groups on best practice in tackling the financial and economic aspects of their campaign. Messages to investors in particular are gaining focus and impact.

Other measures that could strengthen the effects of this closer coordination still further:

1) Renewable Energy and Climate Change Strategy (RECCS)   Development of a positive climate and green energy proposal.  Just calling for an end to commercial scale forest bioenergy by cessation of subsidies and phasing out of coal and gas, is laudable – but presents decision takers with a problem: how to fill the resulting energy gap. By contrast, faster results could be gained by advocating a coherent strategy involving reallocation of subsidies, together with matched funding from institutions and incentivised private sector investment to:

  •  genuine forms of renewable energy (solar,

offshore wind, hydrogen, marine, geothermal) with appropriate infrastructure, as well as other effective measures to address climate change

  •  protection and restoration of carbon-absorbent ecosystems to mitigate climate change, with co-benefits such as biodiversity enrichment, flood alleviation and enhanced nature tourism
  •  enterprise initiatives for emission suppression, fuel efficiency and demand reduction: recycling, insulation, technical innovation (per the steel and cement industries)

The net result provides the basis for a far broader-based green economy than for example the primitive technology of wood burning can ever produce – with much greater positive impacts on productivity growth, income generation and employment potential.

Wild Europe is currently engaged on development of such a strategy.

2) Widening the End Carbon Fuels alliance beyond environmental campaigners to include other sectors: taxpayer, consumer, ‘green industry’ and healthcare interests. 

Whilst not all necessarily having the same immediate goals as environmentalists, these sectors share the same objectives of not wanting to see scarce financial resources wasted on worsening climate change and health problems. They are much better resourced with more lobbying impact.

Wild Europe has been liaising with such interests for some while now.

For further information on any of the above initiatives, please contact info@wildeurope.org