How will people and forests survive the energy crisis?
The prospect of a European winter energy crisis loomed from the moment Russia launched its assault on Ukraine in February.
Today, amid fears of power cuts and blackouts, curtailing soaring household energy bills is the most pressing negotiation topic among EU Member States – as many Europeans will likely face the stark prospect of having to choose whether to heat or eat, at the expense of their health.
It’s no surprise then, that there’s been a surge in demand for firewood across Europe. Or that some European governments are loosening forest protection rules to make it easier for people to access wood.
Meanwhile, some are using this winter’s energy crisis to promote a policy which is already causing enormous damage to forests and the climate: incentivising burning biomass on an industrial scale.
The biomass sector – which has grown rich on taxpayer subsidies in recent years courtesy of the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED) - is trying to keep its incentives rolling by invoking the threat to Europe’s energy security, just as the RED is being revised.
The upshot is that the pressure on Europe’s already besieged forests is intensifying from different directions.
This briefing proposes both the immediate and longer term solutions to this.
It outlines how Member States can protect their forests and make them more resilient, while helping their citizens keep their homes warm – and ultimately releasing the stranglehold that fossil fuels – and burning wood on industrial scale – has on us.