The EU renewable energy policy is driving deforestation and forest degradation in the US, according to several US NGOs who visited European capitals in early February. Wood pellet exports dramatically rose, particularly in the south eastern states, after the EU set mandatory targets for renewable energy generation in 2008. As a result, the region is expected to export almost six billion tons of wood pellets this year, mainly to the UK, Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands as (woody) biomass for power and heating purposes.
Currently the EU renewable energy policy does not have any sustainability criteria or other restrictions relating to the use of biomass for the power and heating sector, so there is nothing to stop biomass imports from North America, which have detrimental impacts on forests, water and soil quality and wildlife in that region. Natural forests are being converted into intensive wood plantations for industrial purposes. As this region is characterised by private ownership, large-scale clear-cutting, old-growth logging and wetland logging are often not regulated.
Representatives from the US-based Dogwood Alliance, NRDC and SELC have met with EU and Member State officials in Brussels, London, Berlin and The Hague to clarify their main concerns. The European Commission is due to propose biomass policies under the ‘2030 climate and energy package’; it must take deliberate measures to address the questionable climate benefits and high environmental costs associated with the burning of wood for electricity.