The European Union’s new renewable energy policy damages its ambition to become the world’s climate leader. The new Renewable Energy Directive agreed on today will apply for the period 2021 – 2030 and will continue to incentivise current destructive practices: increasing forest harvests, the burning of whole trees and stumps, and large scale use of biomass in inefficient electricity installations.
But neither of these rules can ensure that burning woody biomass reduces emissions compared to fossil fuels and is compatible with the EU’s aims to use limited resources more efficiently. Incentivising biomass use will further increase forest harvests and distort the market for forest-based products.
Today’s decision also goes directly against the aims of the Paris Agreement that strives to keep global warming below 1.5 Degrees and recognises the important role of forests in removing carbon from the atmosphere, known as carbon sinks. The Agreement therefore requires that states maintain and enhance forest carbon sinks. Today’s decision however encourages countries almost unreservedly to do the exact opposite: increase harvests, leading to decreasing forest carbon sinks.
Biomass is the most glaring loophole in today’s decision. It undermines the EU’s commitments to the Paris Agreement and sends a bad international signal that converting coal plants to biomass plants is somehow positive.