Despite repeated warnings from scientists, doctors, NGOs, and EU citizens about its dire consequences for forests and air quality, the final version of the revised Renewable Energy Directive (RED III) which was adopted today, will still enable energy operators to receive billions of euros in public financial support for burning wood, and Member States to count the resulting energy towards their renewable energy targets.
The legislation, which was adopted after months of negotiation by the Council of the EU, which represents the national governments of all EU Member States, is essential to organising the EU energy sector, as it defines very ambitious targets for Member States and incentives for accelerating the development of renewable energy sources.
Martin Pigeon, Forests and Climate Campaigner with Fern, said:
“The revised EU Renewable Energy Directive still allows Member States to subsidise energy companies burning millions of trees, at the expense of the EU’s own climate and biodiversity targets and EU citizens’ money, health and future.
Today’s decision retains a policy that is worsening the climate and biodiversity crises, increasing air pollution, and diminishing important industries' wood supply. But national governments can limit the damage when they adapt this legal framework into national law. EU citizens willing to defend trees and forests against this policy must be aware that they now have the opportunity to intervene!”
All eyes on national lawmakers
A striking feature of this revision of the forest biomass rules is the importance given to national legislation. Member States can decide whether they want to continue supporting the biomass industry.
If they want to keep rewarding energy operators burning forest biomass, they have to implement the RED III’s conditions: respect the cascading principle (giving priority to material uses of wood to maximise value creation, with loopholes); exclude some biomass feedstocks from the incentives; end support to electricity production from wood burning (with exceptions); and comply with somewhat tightened sustainability criteria (wood from primary and old growth forests in particular should be excluded from biomass incentives, and Member States’ land carbon sinks must be preserved).
These conditions are, however, a minimum and insufficient bar, and Member States can (and should) go beyond them. In particular, they can adopt additional sustainability criteria to stop the clear-cutting and destruction of entire forests, in particular old-growth forests, for bioenergy.
“The transposition of the Directive into national law is an opportunity to curtail the negative impacts of the RED. We call on national lawmakers to acknowledge the clear scientific evidence that clear-cutting forests to burn wood aggravates the climate crisis at the worst possible moment. Now is the time to better protect forests, the climate, public health and other wood-using industries from the EU’s unfortunate biomass policy,” said Pigeon.
A more developed analysis of the outcome of the negotiations can be found in the press release that Fern published at the end of the trilogues, March 2023.
Fern and allies will soon publish a “transposition guide” indicating to EU Member States how they can implement the Renewable Energy Directive in a way that helps them to address the climate and biodiversity crises.