EU biomass subsidies contribute to forest destruction

eu biomass subsidies
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A new report has found EU subsidies for biomass energy channel nearly €7bn per year into unsustainable and destructive energy sources.

US environmental advocacy non-profit the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has published the ‘Burnout: EU clean energy subsidies lead to forest destruction’ report, which highlights the environmental impact of the practice of burning biomass as fuel. For the purpose of allocating energy subsidies, the EU defines biomass as a clean energy source; however, the process of burning wood for electricity production both releases high levels of carbon emissions and contributes to the destruction of forest ecosystems. As forests act as a ‘carbon sink’, absorbing carbon dioxide which would otherwise be released into the atmosphere, energy production using biomass fuel is contraindicated from an environmental perspective.

Sasha Stashwick, a senior advocate with NRDC, said: “It’s time to put an end to this state-sponsored climate destruction. Cutting down trees and burning them for fuel is destructive to the forests we need now more than ever. European nations must swear off biomass and redirect subsidies to truly clean and renewable resources like wind and solar.”

The NRDC’s report, based on research provided by economic policy consultancy Trinomics, covers biomass subsidies in 15 EU Member States between 2105 and 2018. The UK and Germany pay out the most biomass subsidies: in 2017, more than half of all subsidies issued for biomass-based energy production across the 15 Member States studied were in Germany and the UK. Austria, Belgium, Finland and the UK each spent more than 15% of their renewable energy subsidies on biomass production. More than half of the UK’s total biomass use is in the generation of electricity in power plants.

Overall in 2017, the 15 Member States assessed for the report spent a total of €6.6bn in direct subsidies for energy production using biomass. The report states: ‘Burning trees for electricity is not renewable and not a viable climate solution. Critically, no EU Member State has formally ruled out burning forest biomass for electricity in the future. That can and should change before we publish our next assessment. In the coming years, we hope and expect that in EU countries where massive biomass industry subsidies have become entrenched, such as the United Kingdom, policymakers will redirect this financial support toward genuinely zero-emitting and renewable energy sources like solar and wind. Countries considering new policies and incentives to replace aging fossil fuel-based energy infrastructure, both inside and outside the European Union, must rule out incentives for burning forest biomass instead of or alongside coal.’

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