Wilderness Policy

International Day of Action on Forest Biomass Energy

We are taking part in an International Day of Action on Forest Biomass Energy on 24th November and need your help to make it a success. Our forests provide us with fresh air and clean water and they help regulate rainfall cycles. They store carbon and buffer communities from the dangerous impacts of climate change. They are also sanctuaries for an incalculable number of plant and animal species. Preserving nature and avoiding the worst impacts of climate change will require an extraordinary commitment to protect and restore natural forests.

Still today, energy poverty is a serious problem in the EU, and many people rely on burning wood for heating. However, lucrative renewable energy subsidies for biomass are driving a surge in forest logging. That is increasing CO2 emissions and degrading forest ecosystems. The greenhouse gas emissions impact is worsened because burning wood is taking up precious public funds. Authorities should instead allocate them to zero-emissions renewable energy technologies like solar and wind. In addition, the origin of the burned wood is often shady and protected areas are still not safe from illegal logging.

Forest Biomass Energy can harm forests and people

And biomass energy doesn’t just impact forests and climate – it can also impact our health. Wood burning is a major source of the air pollution that already kills over 1,000 people per day in the EU. If biomass is burned, it must be ensured that state-of-the-art filters and technology are used to keep health risks minimal. Nevertheless, EU consumers and taxpayers are paying for outdated power plants that damage forests, climate and air quality. Renewable energy subsidies are used that are supposed to support “clean and green” energy.

The amount of wood burned for electricity generation and heating has increased greatly since the EU started counting it toward renewable energy targets. In the EU, over one-third of renewable energy now comes from Forest Biomass Energy. Much of it is sourced directly from forests. EU forests are paying the price. The European Commission’s science advisors recently found the EU is losing forest rapidly. Logging for fuel is part of the reason. And it’s not just EU forests that are suffering. The EU imports an increasing amount of wood fuel from the US, Canada, Russia, Ukraine, and even Brazil. The wood pellet industry in North America alone consumes millions of tonnes of trees per year. While modern biomass energy is an important step to make our world fossil-fuel-free, we cannot log our forests to satisfy the ever-increasing demand for energy.

Sign the petition

Right now, EU policymakers are making critical decisions on how we respond to the climate and biodiversity crises, how we generate energy, and how we protect nature and biodiversity. These decisions will impact us for decades to come. Now is the time to let EU officials know: The protection of our forests must have priority over Forest Biomass Energy. The petition calls the EU to end subsidies and incentives for Forest Biomass Energy and exclude it from renewable energy targets. The protection and restoration of forests must be prioritised for our health, the climate and biodiversity. The petition therefore calls on EU policymakers and EU Member States to:

  • End subsidies and other incentives for burning forest wood. Redirect this critical support to energy efficiency and true low-emissions renewable energy sources
  • Exclude energy generated from burning forest wood from counting toward renewable energy targets
  • Prioritise forest protection and restoration and ensure that all EU policies safeguard our health, the climate and biodiversity

We’re creating a mass online action that will flow around the world through the various time zones, starting in the Pacific, via Australia, Asia, Africa, and Europe to the Americas.

The focus is an important petition that needs to attract many thousands of individual signatures to make a big impact. It calls for an end to subsidies and incentives for Forest Biomass Energy, for it to be excluded from renewable energy targets, and for the protection and restoration of forests to be prioritised for our health, the climate and biodiversity.

The target is the European Union and its member countries but this message must come from everywhere affected by Europe’s unacceptable large scale biomass burning and poor leadership – from forests and communities suffering the impacts, to other jurisdictions that are following in Europe’s footsteps – currently leading to a global escalation of this false and damaging climate solution.

Peg Putt
Forests, Climate & Biomass Working Group; Environmental Paper Network International

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