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.
In doing so, they will undermine the recently raised climate targets for 2030 and 2050, the aims of the Green Deal, and the EU’s global reputation for environmental probity.
First we have had strong indications in their consultation process that DG Energy in particular does not wish to see reforms to the Renewable Energy Directive II that currently enables subsidies for commercial scale forest bioenergy burning.
Then, on 22nd May, the EC published the Delegated Taxonomy Act that confirms a wish for such subsidies to remain in place, against the advice of its own TEG consultancy body, together with a weakening of controls on forestry practice.
That was closely followed on 27th May by a Report from the International Energy Agency advocating a 60% increase in bioenergy use. Consumption of forest wood in Europe for bioenergy already runs in excess of 350 million tonnes, at an annual wastage of 6 – 6.5 billion Euro pa for consumers and taxpayers – not to mention additional negative impacts on forests, biodiversity, health and air pollution generally.
Finally, we have the resurfacing of the Energy Charter Treaty, a legally binding instrument which enables energy companies to sue governments and other entities for changes to energy policy that may compromise their future earnings. It is proposed the provisions of this instrument be extended to ‘renewables’, forest bioenergy among them. If enabled, such extension would make it exceedingly difficult to dislodge this damaging and inefficient form of energy generation, indeed it could ossify the overall pattern of investment regardless of technical validity.
Fuelled by heavy lobbying from forestry and bioenergy interests seeking to defend large subsidies without which the commercial bioenergy industry would collapse overnight, this destructive juggernaut is now running out of control.
An action plan with impact
There are four underutilised opportunities that can help stop this momentum:
- Development of a positive alternative energy policy, demonstrating how climate change is far more efficiently tackled by switching subsidies from forest bioenergy to alternative genuine renewables (wind, solar, marine, geothermal plus heat pumps and infrastructure), protection and restoration of carbon absorbing ecosystems, and emission suppression (re-budgeted insulation, recycling etc).
Promotion of matched funding from the EC (Just Transition, Climate and Recovery Funds) institutions (EIB etc) and the private sector will greatly reinforce the impact of this subsidy reallocation.
Current campaigning by the conservation sector is poorly structured from a lobbying perspective, despite its technical soundness, offering a problem to decision takers – how to fill the energy gap – rather than a positive way ahead.
- Further developing the alliance against forest bioenergy to encompass consumers, taxpayers and industry representatives. Another key area of focus involves informing consumers and persuading them to switch retail energy supplier.
- Raising awareness in the forest bioenergy finance arena of the above actions – particularly the potential shift in consumer demand – undermining the perceived commercial viability of this sector, raising the cost of risk-assessed capital and promoting reallocation of investment
- Realigning the End Fossil Fuels campaign to become End Carbon Fuels.Given the higher emissions from bioenergy than gas or coal, this can only strengthen the position of fossil fuel and bioenergy campaigners alike.
Wild Europe is working on all these aspects of campaigning. For further information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
10 June 2021