There has been intense criticism of the European Union (EU) Renewable Energy Directive (RED) for leading to adverse impacts on forests in Europe and beyond. To tackle these concerns, the EU developed sustainability criteria that forest biomass must meet to be counted towards EU renewable energy targets (and therefore be eligible for subsidies).
These criteria were included in the second iteration of the RED (REDII), for which the European Commission (EC) is developing a set of Operational Guidelines by means of an implementing regulation.
The EC is now revising REDII, and paying particular attention to these sustainability criteria. It is essential that they look at the effect that current biomass sustainability criteria would have on the ground.
Today we publish a legal analysis of the existing sustainability criteria. It reveals that they:
- Fail to ensure that biomass does not harm forests
- Fail to ensure that bioenergy helps tackle the climate crisis
Even in a best case scenario, legality does not mean sustainability, but when enforcement is delegated to private certification auditors who are paid by the bioenergy producers, the odds of even achieving legality are dangerously slim.
The treatment of biomass in EU policy is predicated on the overly simplistic and flawed idea that biomass can be a source of renewable energy that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions without harming forests. For this to start being true, there must be an immediate and substantial revision of current rules.