This is the first of a series of briefings Fern is producing on bioenergy. This briefing shows how little forest biomass is available, and proposes an EU strategy for a more efficient use of the scarce wood resource.
The European Union (EU)’s renewable energy policy aims to cut carbon emissions by replacing fossil fuels with sustainable alternatives, and one of its main tools is the promotion of bioenergy. Heating and electricity produced with biomass accounts for more than half of the renewable energy produced in the EU.
Three-quarters of this biomass is ‘woody biomass’, harvested directly from forests. If Member States were to use biomass according to their renewable energy plans, by 2020 the amount of wood used for energy alone would be equivalent to today’s total EU wood harvest.
The EU is currently considering how to meet its 2030 renewable energy target, and the European Commission is expected to propose new policies for renewable energy and sustainable biomass early in 2017. This will be welcome, as continuing with the EU’s current renewable energy policy would likely lead to the further loss of forests and biodiversity, without mitigating climate change effectively.
This series of briefings argues that, first, the new EU policies for renewable energy should recognise that there is not enough wood available for a sharp increase in the use of biomass; and second, that using woody biomass does not necessarily reduce carbon emissions. The EU should therefore not allow subsidies for the use of forest biomass after 2020.