The European Union’s (EU) Renewable Energy Directive (RED) enables Member States to subsidise energy derived from biomass (bioenergy). EU citizens paid out €10.3 billion to support bioenergy in 2018.
These subsidies are causing considerable harm to the climate, people and nature.
As part of the European Green Deal, the RED is being revised, providing the last opportunity for a long time to ensure it supports, rather than undermines, the EU’s climate and biodiversity ambitions.
The European Commission’s July 2021 proposed RED amendments do not address the key damage bioenergy causes to people, our health, nature and the climate. This position paper outlines how the EU can create a bioenergy policy that civil society and citizens can support.
EU bioenergy subsidies have dramatically increased the burning of forest biomass and agricultural crops for energy, harming people and leading to ecosystem destruction across the world. Such burning forces people off their land, destroys wildlife habitats, impacts food prices, makes our air toxic and considerably increases greenhouse gas emissions for decades to come.
The following issues are of particular concern:
- Burning biomass emits massive amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2).
- Burning biomass toxifies the air.
- Crop-based biofuels undermine food security and are worse for the climate than fossil fuels.
- The RED’s forest biomass provisions undermine climate and biodiversity goals.
- Biomass is not carbon neutral.
- Forests are already under excessive pressure.
The European Commission proposal reflects a growing awareness of the problems, but still fails to propose meaningful remedies.
To be compatible with the European Green Deal ambitions, the RED must stop allowing public subsidies for forest biomass, stop allowing Member States to count it towards renewable energy targets, and phase out crop-based biofuels. Related reforms should be enacted in the LULUCF Regulation and the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS).
Specifically EU legislators should:
- Remove forest biomass from the list of eligible fuels in the RED.
- Stop treating biomass as a “zero carbon” fuel in the EU ETS.
- Apply the cascading principle in a way that only allows biomass from wood product manufacturing and post-consumer wood (“secondary woody biomass”, excluding forestry residues) to count towards renewable energy targets if such materials cannot be turned into durable products.
- Increase the target for land sector carbon removals in 2030 from the current 310 to 600 Megatons, as several studies have indicated.
- Redirect bioenergy subsidies towards practices that store more carbon in forests, in full respect of ecological principles.
- Reduce the target for greenhouse gas intensity reduction of the transport sector to maximise climate benefits, based on latest available science, to avoid driving the use of unsustainable fuels.
- Stop counting crop-based biofuels, including from oilseed rape, cereals, energy crops and intermediate crops, towards RED targets.
- End support for biofuels produced from palm oil and soy immediately. [...]