Biomass under fire from environmental groups

Environmental groups this week urged the United Nations to consider the ‘serious negative impacts’ of using biomass for energy.

In a letter sent to the director-general of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 43 groups including Birdlife Europe, Friends of the Earth Europe, the International Tree Foundation and the Global Forest Coalition said the growing use of bioenergy has impacted negatively on ‘the environment, local communities, people’s health, the climate and, of course, our forests’.

The letter added that using biomass for energy production as part of a climate change mitigation strategy ‘is based on flawed science’ and ‘can create more problems than solutions’. à‚ 

Tuesday has been designated as the International Day of Forests 2017.

The groups urged the FAO to stop endorsing and promoting large-scale biomass use for energy; stop presenting woody biomass as carbon-neutral and sustainable; support resource-efficient use of wood and a hierarchy of wood uses, ‘which can contribute to mid- and long-term carbon storage’, and refocus its energies on forest conservation, regeneration and restoration.

Jean-Marc Jossart, General Secretary of European biomass trade group Aebiom, responded to the letter with a statement, saying there were ‘plenty of good reasons to focus the 2017 International Day of Forests on bioenergy’.

‘In Europe, where bioenergy represents more than 60% of the total consumption of renewables, wood for energy provides almost half a million jobs and helps to ensure energy security, rural development and innovation,’ he said. ‘Bioenergy also provides a valuable source of income for forest owners, encouraging proper forest management. Even more importantly, bioenergy offers a concrete alternative to fossil fuels and is therefore key to decarbonizing our economy, as a recent letter from the International Energy Agency, signed by 125 scientists, confirms.’à‚ 

Jossart added that ‘intentionally misleading representations of bioenergy’ would ‘only reinforce the position of fossil fuels for the decade to come.’ à‚ 

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