The EU has been shamed by campaigners, who claim the bloc is “sacrificing forests” after it published proposals that would allow trees to continue to be burned for fuel.
It came after the European Commission unveiled its forest strategy, which includes a goal to plant three billion trees across the bloc by 2030.
The proposal is part of a wider effort to address the climate crisis and put the EU on track to cut emissions by 55 percent by the end of the decade – in what has been dubbed “Fit for 55”.
But campaigners claim the Commission has not gone far enough to tighten the rules on wood that can be burned for fuel.
According to reports, around 20 percent of the energy the EU counts and subsidizes as “renewable” comes from logging and burning forest wood.
Although this is [still considered] a renewable form of making energy, it still increases carbon pollution compared to fossil fuels, destroys forest ecosystems, and adds to air pollution.
A draft update bans the biomass industry from taking wood from “primary forests” – which campaigners say accounts for just three percent of forests.
It adds that overall “the use of whole trees for energy production, whether from the EU or imported, should be minimized”.
Lina Burnelius, project leader at Protect the Forest Sweden, said the commission had failed to address one of the key drivers of forest degradation – counting forest biomass as renewable energy.
She told the Guardian: “Fit for 55 is harmful to forests and insufficient to tackle climate change. We are in desperate need of honest policies that include all our emissions in the statistics.”
Ms. Burnelius said the Commission had chosen “to sacrifice forests rather than admit that current EU bioenergy policy is making the climate crisis worse”.
She pleaded: “Enough with the burning. We cannot just switch from burning one climate disastrous fuel to another”.
Earlier in the year, more than 500 scientists wrote to European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, and other world leaders, calling on them to end all subsidies for wood burning.
The letter said: “Regrowing trees and displacement of fossil fuels may eventually pay off this carbon debt, but regrowth takes time the world does not have to solve climate change.
“Trees are more valuable alive than dead both for climate and for biodiversity.”
In response to the claims, the EU environment commissioner, Virginijus Sinkevičius, said the EU strategy clearly states that “whole woods” were to be avoided for biomass.
He added: “Our aim is very clear – the forests have to play a vital role, a contribution to our Fit for 55 target, for our 55 percent [emissions-reduction] target.”
He suggested “most” EU member states were not burning whole trees for biomass “because economically it doesn’t make sense”.
Mr. Sinkevičius said biomass producers “usually” using tree parts “that are not used anywhere else” and whole wood “is used in the value chain for products that actually store carbon for a much longer time”.
A recent report from the commission’s scientific advisers shows that 49 percent of the EU’s woody bioenergy comes from residues and wastes from logging and timber processing, such as branches and sawdust.
A further 37 percent comes from “low-quality” stem wood (trunks) and immature trees cut down for forest management, while 14 percent of biomass was from an unknown source.
The final version of the law will have to be agreed upon by EU governments and members of the European parliament.
Read more at Daily Express
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