August 2021 IN DETAIL
Fit for 55: Bioenergy without carbon capture gets short end of the stick
July 2021 OVERVIEW
Biomass media coverage in the Netherlands was of particular interest, in July, as the papers NRC and Volkskrant have begun to take an anti-forest biomass position in their articles. Previously, the paper Telegraaf stood alone with its anti-forest biomass position, due to its opposition to any climate subsidy. Included with the Dutch sources is a Leefmilieu article answering the technical briefing of Samsom in the Commission Economic Affairs and Climate of the House of Representatives.
July 2021 IN DETAIL
Fit for 55: What are the most controversial elements?
Europe Fiddles While Forests Burn
European Environmental Bureau
EU’s ‘Fit for 55’ is unfit and unfair
The EU’s biomass dilemma: can burning trees ever be green? [Paywall]
Bioenergy representatives have responded with an open letter.
Brussels takes the lead in global battle to end greenhouse emissions
Transport and Environment
10 years of EU fuels policy increased EU’s reliance on unsustainable biofuels (report)
T&E’s report analyses Oil World data for 2020 to assess current biofuels consumption and to evaluate the impact of the Renewable Energy Directive 10 years since it was introduced. It paints a sobering story of a policy that has driven up demand for cheap crop-based biodiesel leading to deforestation, habitat loss and greater CO2 emissions than the fossil diesel it replaces. Finland is lobbying hard for their forests not to be subjected to any EU environmental considerations under the forest strategy.
The Baltic Times
US doctor of ecology dismisses environmental policy of EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson
Mary Booth’s criticism of Kadri Simson. Lina Burnelius, spokeswoman for Sweden’s forest protection organization Skydda Skogen, is also quoted throughout.
“The forest is at the center of climate issues and the energy transition”
Interview with anthropologist Bernard Kalaora.
Brussels tightens rules for the use of biomass
The European rules for energy generation by burning plant material and wood are being tightened up. For example, the European Commission wants to expand the prohibited extraction areas, so-called ‘no-go areas’, so that primeval forests with a high biodiversity and peatlands are also included.
‘Biomass remains necessary to achieve climate goals’
The body that is involved in the implementation of the Climate Agreement has written to the leaders of D66, Sigrid Kaag, and the VVD, Mark Rutte to say that biomass is indispensable to achieve climate goals.
Samsom wrong about biomass, 5 July 2021
Clean Air Committee, Leefmilieu and Mobilisation for the Environment, argues that burning woody biomass is an incorrect and counterproductive climate solution. This is in response to a technical briefing by Diederik Samsom on 23 June 2021 to the Economic Affairs and Climate Committee of the House of Representatives.
The Brussels fight over forests and biomass is on, 8 July 2021
Martin Pigeon, NGO Fern: “This policy combines the worst of both worlds. On the one hand, you use an energy source that produces the most CO2, and with that you also destroy the forests that have to absorb carbon.”
Opinion: Using forest biomass is far from sustainable, 14 July 2021
Today, Brussels decides whether the European Union will use biomass from forests to achieve its carbon reduction target. Fenna Swart (Clean Air Committee), Wolfgang Richert (Greenpeace NL) and Mary Booth (PFPI) are against.
Opinion: Timmermans misses the point with biomass
Today, the European Commission will publish a mega package of new climate laws to make the ‘long-coveted start’ with the European Green Deal, according to Frans Timmermans. The spotlight is mainly on burning of forest biomass. Fenna Swart of the Clean Air Committee finds this questionable.
Research: Dutch biomass causes forest clearing in Estonia
A new study finds that energy from biomass harms old-growth forests and animal life. The result is that environmental organizations collectively walk away from national consultations about energy from biomass. This story of Dutch subsidies being used to cut down old-growth Estonian forests for energy was also picked up by ANP.
Sweden cuts its ancient forests to plant trees, 13 July 2021
In Sweden, a lot of forest is disappearing for planting. That industrial forestry is our business, says Sweden. Lina Burnelius (NGO Protect the Forest) and MEP Bas Eickhout are fighting this.
June 2021 OVERVIEW
On a global level, the Financial Times, whilst not specifically mentioning RED, have provided great visibility to the issues with replanting new trees to compensate for logging.
On the EU level, the Renewable Energy Directive is very much on the radar of outlets such as Euractiv and the EU Observer, as are the other elements of the Fit for 55 package.
In the Netherlands, the bioenergy discussion has heated up following the decision of the government to both suspend biomass subsidies and give the green light to the country’s largest biomass plant. De Telegraaf have followed the issue closely.
Our petition has received media coverage in both EU outlets and national outlets such as Ansa in Italy. An excerpt of our Euractiv op-ed was also mentioned in the New Yorker.
Over in Germany, Zfk report that the government’s new sustainability agreement for biomass has been renewed for another ten years, confirming the country’s long-term commitment to the energy source.
June 2021 IN DETAIL
Everything but the (forest) sink:
Transitioning heating systems and power stations from coal to wood was generally considered beneficial for the climate, but science-based opposition to ‘climate neutral’ assumptions about biomass is gaining traction. By Philippa Nuttall Jones 16 Jun 2021 (Last Updated 18 Jun 2021)
Forest advocates press EU leader to rethink views on biomass and energy
“Please get the science right,” forest advocates implored last week in an open letter sent to the most influential European Commission leader on climate, as the European Union reevaluates its renewable energy policies this month.
Tree planting could undermine fight against climate crisis, scientists warn
Widely used measure to offset CO2 emissions can disrupt natural ecosystems, says report.
Draft bioenergy rules are ‘greenwash, not green energy’ [Paywall]
Following a leak last week, green groups WWF, Transport & Environment, Fern, BirdLife, NRDC and the Partnership for Policy Integrity together say that the draft would fail to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from biofuel, protect biodiversity or reduce air pollution …
Politico Sustainability Insights Newsletter
ANTI-BIOENERGY PUSH AHEAD OF FIT FOR 55: Climate campaigners this afternoon will hand in a petition to Diederik Samsom, head of cabinet to Green Deal chief Frans Timmermans, calling for subsidies and incentives for wood-based bioenergy to be redirected to other renewable energy and energy sufficiency plans. That could be done in the revision of the Energy Tax Directive, which will be part of “Fit for 55,” the European Commission’s roadmap to achieving the bloc’s 2030 climate targets due to drop on July 14.
The petition also asks that wood-burning not count toward green targets in the updated Renewable Energy Directive — something opposed by Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson, who told a POLITICO event [Paywall] recently that bioenergy was an important part of the EU’s renewable energy strategy.
The Brussels Times
Environmental groups target traditional climate change allies over the future of wood as EU renewable energy
Should forestry products including wood and biofuels continue to play a vital role as the leading source of renewable energy as the European Union’s accelerates its plans to counter climate change?
How the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive risks destroying Europe’s forests
In meeting their 2020 renewable energy targets, EU Member States have overseen large increases in renewable power. But this has been accompanied by a less welcome development: a near doubling in the amount of energy derived from solid biomass, which is currently classified as zero carbon.
NGOs: Leaked EU biomass reform is ‘denial of science’
Environmentalists on Thursday (17 June) called on the European Commission to remove forest biomass from a key climate-focus law, arguing that an updated proposal leaked this week shows a “clear denial of science” and “dangerous greenwashing”.
The world’s forests have changed from carbon sinks to a source of emissions
The EU’s forestry strategy, which knocked out clear-cutting, began to twist – Finland and a number of other countries appeal to the Commission: forests should not be “subjected” to environmental considerations
No wood for energy production – limited bioresources should be directed as far as possible to processed uses
A recent international study has looked at the use and demand for bio-based raw materials in the EU. The study shows that wood raw material should be used mainly for highly specialized needs, rather than as a fuel for electricity generation.
European Parliament wants to protect 30% of lands and seas
The Protest Rises Against Wood Energy
Biomass: Vattenfall and Berlin sign sustainability agreement 2.0
The State of Berlin and Vattenfall Wärme Berlin have updated the sustainability agreement for biomass for another ten years. It creates framework conditions and prerequisites for the sustainable use of woody biomass for energy supply.
The spruces come by ship from Scandinavia just to be burned in Cuxhaven. Sounds like a bad joke, but the wooden pile is even subsidized by the state.
NGO appeal to the EU, biomasses are not renewable sources
A petition with 200,000 signatures from European citizens asking for the elimination of forest biomass from the European Directive on Renewable Energy (RED), currently under review, was delivered by Forest Defenders Alliance-FDA and BirdLife Europe in Brussels, at the Office of Frans Timmermans.
Green light for Netherlands’s largest biomass plant
Energy company Vattenfall is allowed to continue with the preparations for the construction of the largest biomass power station in the Netherlands near Diemen. The outlet later published an article about the negative backlash to the station’s approval.
Climate agreement – so much craziness is hard to believe (paywall)
Climate and nature in the Netherlands have deteriorated in recent years as a result of the so-called ‘Climate Agreement’. As a result, CO2 emissions have increased.
Cabinet: stop subsidies on woody biomass
Burning woody biomass will not receive any new subsidies next autumn in the Netherlands.
De Telegraaf have also published a long-read subscriber only article about the removal of subsidies for biomass. Nu.NL also covered the announcement.
Crack in the government – Bolund goes against S about the forest (paywall)
Minister of Climate and Environment Per Bolund (MP) is now revealing a rift in the government’s view of the forest. Swedish forestry is not sustainable, he says – contrary to what the Minister of Agriculture Jennie Nilsson (S) says.
Everyone Wants to Sell the Last Barrel of Oil
Directly mentions and links to our Euractiv op-ed and the Renewable Energy Directive.
May 2021 OVERVIEW
In Brussels, media coverage on biomass increases, putting pressure on the EU to justify burning biomass in a net-zero scenario. Euractiv also interviewed Timmermans, pressing him extensively on the topic of biomass, which Timmermans maintained biomass is essential to reach net-zero.
In France, the discussion continues to focus on air pollution and the human health effects of burning wood for energy, while in Sweden, leading media outlet publishes calls to ‘discontinue biofuels’ in an editorial in Dagens Industri. In Spain, tier 1 outlet El Pais warns against the notion that planting more trees is a carbon-neutral solution.
Some national media outlets did report on the study in Nature Climate Change showing that the Amazon rainforest has become a net-carbon emitter.
Finally, the biomass industry have placed paid media articles in the FT to promote the use of forest biomass.
May 2021 IN DETAIL
Leak: EU executive moots tighter sustainability criteria for biofuels
EU must end renewable energy support for forest biomass – campaigners
Timmermans: EU countries need to face the consequences of higher climate goals
We can’t burn our way out of the climate crisis
Growing the forest bioeconomy (free to read partner content paid for by the World Bioenergy Association)
The Brussels Times
When forests become bonfires
The Amazon rainforest now emits more carbon that it absorbs
In the Drôme, environmental protection associations are concerned about the practice of clear cuts
Burning wood to save the planet: stroke of genius or false solution?
In the future, coal-fired power plants could burn wood – subsidized with taxpayers’ money
Greta Thunberg criticizes plans for biomass plant in Diemen
Environmental groups protest at the UN Summit
De Vooravond (talkshow)
Gestion forestal para que un desierto no se llame España
Discontinue the biofuels
Threats mount up against top European beauty spot in Hungary
April 2021 OVERVIEW
At an EU level, the World Bioenergy Association sponsored an article in Politico, while Ethanol Europe and ePURE sponsor an article in Euractiv – both leading media in Brussels. Meanwhile, Estonian NGO report and policy ask on RED are profiled in Politico Sustainability newsletter.
The EU focus was also on the sustainable finance taxonomy with notable coverage in Euractiv with extensive interview of Pascal Canfin MEP, Chair of ENVI. Canfin expressed doubts about the taxonomy’s criteria for forestry. Meanwhile, WWF publishes an open letter in the Financial Times on the classification of biomass in the EU’s taxonomy.
Ahead of the Biden Climate Summit, the open letter to EU leaders was published in Politico, while in Denmark, leading media Dagens Nyheter runs NOAH’s satirical cartoon on Mette and Biden.
In national news, the Finnish government is seeking approval from Parliament to increase the country’s reliance on biofuels for transport, whilst a Strasbourg NGO calls for two biofuel plants in their area are shut down to improve local air quality. Finally, a new report, partially conducted by the JRC, shows that the climate crisis threatens 60% of European forests, totaling over 33 billion tons of wood.
In France, Liberation covers health impacts of burning wood continue to be a relevant topic as the ‘Strasbourg Respire‘ movement receives significant scientific backing.
Over in Sweden, a leading newspaper finds that a sixth of Sweden’s GHG emissions are not officially counted due to them being generated by bioenergy. Greta Thunberg shared the very detailed article.
Finally, in the UK, the government has just launched a new open consultation on the Role of biomass in achieving net zero. The consultation has been opened to seek evidence on how sustainable biomass should be sourced and used to support UK’s net-zero target. The consultation closes on June 15. Contact: email@example.com
April 2021 IN DETAIL
Why Europe needs bioenergy to reach net-zero
- Sponsored by World Bioenergy Association, shared on Twitter by all the major bioenergy producers, including Enviva and
- The authors maintain that the science (referencing COM September Impact Assessment), shows bioenergy is a climate solution when used sustainably. They claim this is backed by the JRC report, IEA bioenergy and Norway’s SINTEF research organization.
- “In order to achieve climate ambitions for 2030 and beyond, EU leaders must avoid any policy approach that would unnecessarily limit availability, disrupt supply chains and deter investment in a climate solution that has enabled considerable progress, and still holds immense potential.”
Sustainability Insights Newsletter
- Politico published the open letter on protecting forests, and reports on the Estonian case study, citing a report by environmental groups Estwatch and Estonian Fund for Nature, including their policy ask to “remove forest biomass from the incentives within the Renewable Energy Directive”
RED II: EU Commission can’t see the wood for the trees, analysts warn
- Sponsored by Ethanol Europe and ePURE
- Report including interviews from analysts saying that RED-II needs to provide further support for high-quality biofuels following a recent revision of RED-II which capped first-generation biofuels which they regard as a mistake. Irish MEP Sean Kelly told EURACTIV that “There should not be a case where high-quality biofuels are unable to qualify because they could technically be used for low quality animal feed, which may not be financially viable due to low return of investment costs.”
LEAK: EU to table ‘climate taxonomy’, leaving gas and nuclear for later
- A large section of this article is dedicated to WWF’s Henry Eviston’s call to postpone forestry and bioenergy’s inclusion in the new green finance rules until credible science-based criteria is developed.
- Euractiv also published a further article reporting on calls from the prime ministers of multiple EU countries including Slovakia, Poland and Czechia to delay the Commission’s green taxonomy proposal.
Pascal Canfin: “I warn the pro-nuclear against the French hard line”
- When asked about the new taxonomy proposals (April 21), Canfin said “For my part, I am critical of the forestry part. On the one hand, there is a field of application which is too narrow because good climatic forest management is required only for forests with an area exceeding 25 hectares. Below this threshold, forests will therefore not be subject to these obligations. In practice, this means that two thirds of managed forests in Europe will not have to report on the climate.
- Canfin agrees “with NGOs that the taxonomic proposals are insufficient in terms of forest protection and it will be essential, at the very least, that a short-term review clause be included in the delegated acts.”
- Canfin did not go as far as to support removing biomass from the first delegated act.
Letter: EU net-zero tool risks adding to climate crisis (Paywall)
- In response to the FT’s article on splits in Brussels over delay on classifying gas as green investment, the Director of the World Wide Fund, European Policy Office, Ester Asin, wrote a letter to the FT, which was then published by the FT.
- Asin’s letter noted that the FT’s article has avoided the topics of forestry and biomass which are classed in the latest taxonomy rules as sustainable. “Encouraging forestry practices which are shown to destroy nature and types of biomass which increase emissions compared to fossil fuels, would completely discredit the taxonomy.”
- Asin says that a scientifically credible criteria for bioenergy and forestry must be developed for it to be part of any taxonomy.
Farming giants lobby EU to weaken proposed biofuel standards
- Article reporting on EU’s expected decision today (21/04) to classify the burning of trees for energy as “sustainable” in its green finance rules, following lobbying by the powerful agricultural group, Copa Cogeca.
- Worryingly, the article notes that a leaked version of the new green finance rules has dropped the “whole trees clause” which was designed to ensure than only branches and waste wood are burned in biomass incinerators.
- Michael Bloss, a Green MEP, told Unearthed: “The Commission expects forests to deliver building material, be used as bioenergy, act as carbon sinks at the same time as improving biodiversity — this is impossible.“
Denmark, Ekstra Bladet
Exhibits Mette before summit
- Published a cartoon depicting Mette Frederiksen and Joe Biden ahead of this week’s climate summit. The article urges Denmark and the EU to use this summit to bring up the issue of bioenergy being counted as a renewable energy source.
Finland, Finnish Ministry of Employment/Economy
A bill on the addition of biogas and electric fuels to the distribution obligation for consideration by Parliament
- On 8 April 2021, the Government submitted a bill to Parliament providing for the extension of the scope of the national distribution obligation for transport fuels to biogas and non-biological renewable liquid and gaseous fuels.
- The bill encourages investment in biogas and the development and production of new low-emission fuels, says Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä.
Wood heating, dangerous for health and the environment
- Liberation reports that a group of doctors and health associations are warning about the increasing development of wood-fired power stations and incinerators which are producing toxic fine particulate matter, damaging to our health. Burning wood can emit up to 35 times more carcinogenic PAHs than heating oil, and much more compared to burning coal or gas.
- The author criticizes the French government for expanding biomass power plant projects despite opposition from Greenpeace, Friends of Earth and local residents.
- Movement in France against burning wood is being led by Strasbourg Respire.
France, Le Parisien
Air pollution: in Strasbourg, doctors demand the shutdown of biomass plants
- The ‘Strasbourg Respire’ group warns of the dangers of burning wood responsible for the increase in lung cancer and the increase in CO2 emissions. The group have launched an appeal, demanding the shutdown of two biomass sites in Strasbourg.
Ireland, The Irish Times
Greenpeace warns European Commission on nuclear energy classification
- Article mainly focuses on nuclear energy, but Greenpeace Silvia Pastorelli makes reference in support for biomass: “The European Commission should back real climate action, excluding all fake green ‘solutions’ like nuclear, gas and biomass.”
The climate crisis threatens 60% of European forests
- Article on new study published in Nature Communications, partially conducted by the JRC, has found that the climate crisis threatens 60% of European forests, totaling over 33 billion tons of wood, “thus undermining the role of forests in wood supply and carbon sequestration.”
Spain, El Derecho
The new sustainability criteria in the energy use of biomass
- Alba Dosdad, Environmental lawyer of Internaional Institute of Law, looks ahead to implementation of RED II in July and praises the increased use of bioenergy in Spain.
- She says “The transposition and correct application of the new criteria is necessary, not only to guarantee adequate protection of forests and their inherent biodiversity, but also so that the generation of electricity from biomass in Spain is sustainable and, therefore, taken into account for the fulfillment of [Spain’s] renewable objective of 42% by 2030.”
Spain, Energias Renovables
Spain strengthens bioenergy ties with Canada, the world’s second largest exporter of pellets
- A series of virtual meeting have taken place between the Spanish Biomass Association (Avebiom) and the Embassy of Canada. The sustainable management of the Canadian forests from which wooden pellets imported to Europe come from was a major topic of discussion.
Sweden, Dagens Nyheter
One sixth of Sweden’s emissions disappeared from the statistics **Paywall.
- Shared by Greta Thunberg on Twitter.
- Extensive article on shortcomings of bioenergy and how biofuel emissions in Sweden have never been counted meaning just 51 million of Sweden’s 150 million tonnes of emissions are reported. The author states that burning biomass has just as much of an impact on the atmosphere as from oil. “Many researchers believe that time is too short for biofuels to be a solution. We simply do not have time to wait for new trees to grow.”
‘Forests are not renewable’: the felling of Sweden’s ancient trees
- This article questions the biodiversity impact of Sweden’s model of replacing old-growth forests with monoculture plantations. The author picks up on a petition, signed by Swedish youth movements such as Friday Are For Sweden, to the European Commission. These groups are warning that the Swedish forestry model is wreaking havoc among many species of animals.