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ClientEarth Communications

17th January 2018

Clean energy

European Parliament votes to burn wood unsustainably

The European Parliament failed today to set more ambitious rules dictating how wood is burned for energy in the EU. MEPs missed a vital opportunity to protect the environment by refusing to impose sensible safeguards on burning wood for fuel.

This is the latest step in discussions on the renewal of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) that intends to establish an overall policy for the production and promotion of energy from renewable sources in the EU from 2020.

Responding to the vote, ClientEarth biomass lawyer Anna Heslop said: “Today’s vote is truly disappointing. It has failed to secure meaningful criteria to protect our forests and climate. The Parliament has missed an opportunity to avoid the harmful aspects of large-scale burning of wood for energy – instead it will allow unsustainable mass harvesting of trees for energy.

“We have serious reservations about burning wood for energy at this scale, but if the EU is going to allow burning trees for fuel then we need to make sure it’s done in the least destructive way possible.”

The plenary failed to rule out burning whole trees as fuel. The parts of the tree, known as “stumps and stemwood” are an important carbon pool and burning them can contribute to an increase in carbon emissions.

The Parliament rejected the option to allow only wood residues and wastes with low climate impact to be burnt for energy.

However, in a positive move, the Parliament agreed that only power plants that efficiently use forest biomass for electricity production should receive subsidies. These plants will either have to produce heat as well as power or generate electricity with an efficiency rating of more than 40%.

The RED will now enter into trilogues between the European Commission, European Parliament and Council of the European Union where they will try to agree to a common position before the Directive can be finalised.