EU bioenergy policy is encouraging more and more trees and crops to be burnt for energy in the name of climate action.
This increases greenhouse gas emissions dramatically compared to fossil fuels.
We need much stricter rules to ensure that the bioenergy used in the EU delivers genuine climate benefits.
Why it matters
We urgently need to increase renewable energy and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. And bioenergy has a role to play in that task.
But EU rules currently encourage types of biomass that actually increase emissions compared to fossil fuels, and that can have serious impacts on nature, food security and air pollution.
For example, as hundreds of scientists have warned, including those working for the European Commission, burning wood from forests (as opposed to waste from sawmills or paper mills) can increase emissions for decades or even centuries compared to fossil fuels, because doing so creates more emissions for the same amount of energy and because of how long it takes for trees to grow back - or for dead trees to rot if they were left in the forest.
What WWF is doing
The EU recently decided on new rules on bioenergy in the Renewable Energy Directive
(RED). Crucially, they did not agree on the European Parliament’s proposal to put a cap on the amount of ‘primary woody biomass’ (which means unprocessed wood taken directly from the forest, such as tree trunks and branches) that can be burnt and counted towards renewable energy targets.
This would have limited the damage inflicted on the climate by the previous RED and instead encourage investment in things like wind and solar power.
WWF will keep fighting for a Renewable Energy Directive which is truly renewable and which:
- Limits the amount of primary woody biomass that can be counted as zero carbon renewable energy. Indeed, as hundreds of eminent climate scientists warned, and as the European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) has made clear, burning materials like this will increase emissions for decades or even centuries compared to fossil fuels.
- Phases out subsidies for the use of primary woody biomass. In 2018, Member States collectively paid €10.3 billion of taxpayer’s money in subsidies for burning wood for energy. This money would be much better spent on supporting things like wind, solar, heat pumps and improving energy efficiency.
- Ends all incentives in the RED for bioenergy produced from dedicated crops, regardless of which sector they are used in. At present there is a cap of maximum 7% on food and feed-based biofuels in transport, but no limit on food and feed-based bioenergy in heat or power, or any limit on other dedicated energy crops - despite the fact that this is unlikely to be a good use of land from a climate perspective compared to growing food or letting land return to natural vegetation such as forest.