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Biofuture: Paving the road to hell with good intentions

In November 2017, at COP23 in Bonn, 19 countries announced their misguided intention to use more biomass for energy production as a part of their efforts to fight climate change. The list of countries includes major energy consumers such as China, India and the UK, as well as important biomass-producing countries, such as Finland, Sweden, Brazil and Indonesia.

The statement was issued by Biofuture, a ‘multi-stakeholder’ platform that, in addition to countries, includes organisations that promote energy and/or biomass production. Among these are the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Energy Agency (IEA), the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and ApexBrasil. The FAO already launched a pro-bioenergy campaign last year – strongly opposed by environmental groups.

What the statement fails to recognise is that forests, biomass and land are limited resources. Using still more of those limited resources has severe negative impacts on the climate, people and nature. In the EU, the use of bioenergy, which contributes up to 65 per cent of renewable energy consumption, has caused food crops and whole trees to be burned for energy – thereby increasing emissions. Burning biomass is often as bad for the climate as burning coal.

It is of crucial importance that the Council and the Parliament recognise these negative impacts and restrict support for the use of agricultural crops and trees for bioenergy production to mitigate climate change, prevent forest loss and avoid setting a bad example for the rest of the world.

Fern’s new film – featuring interviews with MEP Bas Eickhout, local campaigners fighting biomass developments, public health scientist Torben Sigsgaard – outlines the negative impacts caused by the use of wood for energy: watch it here.