tree tops in front of hazy forest

EU must strip large-scale wood-burning of ‘carbon-neutral’ status

As a vital new EU energy policy is nailed down, ClientEarth is calling for large-scale wood-burning in power stations to be stripped of its ‘carbon-neutral’ status.

The call comes as two reports warn policymakers that biomass power stations are jeopardising EU climate commitments. Experts from the Forestry Commission, and from conservative thinktank Bright Blue, point to the continued mislabelling of large-scale biomass as carbon-neutral.

It is a timely reminder for EU leaders as they negotiate an update to the Renewable Energy Directive (REDII): they must pay heed to the dangers of adopting a law that skimps on sustainability provisions and would allow for an unfettered biomass boom.

ClientEarth law and policy advisor Caroline Haywood said: “Huge power stations have been capitalising on one of the biggest green myths in the modern energy world – that burning wood on a massive scale is good news for the climate and somehow sustainable, on the basis that forests can be regrown.

“This shaky logic legitimises massive subsidies for large-scale combustion plants, when the money could be going to genuinely clean energy investments. It’s a farce and an obstacle to climate progress.”

Biomass must not become the new coal

As the pace of coal plant closures picks up across the EU, concerns that the biomass industry is poised to scale significantly are growing. If EU renewable energy policy continues to reward biomass operators with astronomical subsidies, new plants may be built and coal plant owners may see refitting their units to burn wood as an attractive alternative to demolition.

ClientEarth is calling on EU policymakers to strengthen the sustainability criteria in the REDII so that biomass power plants with high real-world carbon emissions can be prevented.

Caroline added: “It’s time to call foul. Biomass power plants put the EU’s ability to meet climate goals in jeopardy but they’re lauded as a panacea for cutting carbon. We need energy policies that recognise and account for all carbon emissions and incentivise the growth of real renewables – not ones that keep encouraging polluting power generation.”

REDII is currently in the final stages of negotiations, with EU Member States and the European Parliament due to discuss the proposals this Thursday and again in early June.

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