The European Commission consultation process for a new sustainable bioenergy policy received 950 responses as well as 57,000 emails from concerned individuals asking the EU to stop burning trees for energy. Most of these were from US citizens as some of the EU’s biomass comes from forests in the south US (see FW207). Fern’s submissionargued that current bioenergy policies lead to forest loss because they drive demand and use of biomass beyond what can be produced sustainably. It proposed an end to subsidies for large scale biomass plants and increased resource efficiency.
The consultation process included a European Commission led stakeholder meeting at which the division between the forestry sector and forest NGOs became clear. Forest owners and wood-based industries appeared aligned on an approach that would rely on existing ‘sustainable forest management’ practices (SFM) and LULUCF (Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry). Some underlined the need for a level playing field and for an end to policy incentives that pull valuable resources away from the traditional forest-based sector.
NGOs agreed with the last point but pushed strongly against relying on SFM and LULUCF, arguing that these are unfit to ensure robust and verifiable greenhouse gas emissions reductions and resource efficiency.
The scientific panel seemed in agreement that bioenergy cannot claim to be carbon neutral, and SFM and LULUCF are not sufficient guarantees that bioenergy will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
It is now up to the Commission to draft an impact assessment and subsequent policy proposals before the end of 2016. The EU’s upcoming LULUCF decision is also important. The Commission will publish their proposal on 20 July, and this will affect EU bioenergy policy, since LULUCF accounting methods currently hide emissions from bioenergy.