On heels of European Parliament vote to end incentives for burning forest biomass, NGOs file challenge to bioenergy in EU’s Sustainable Finance Taxonomy
BRUSSELS — A vote last week by the European Parliament marks a first step toward significant new restrictions on burning “primary woody biomass” (wood sourced directly from forests) for renewable energy under the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED). The Parliament’s proposal, to be finalized after negotiations with the European Council and Commission, would end subsidies for energy generated by burning most forest biomass by 2024, disqualify wood from old growth and biodiversity-rich forests from counting as renewable fuel, and ramp down forest biomass-burning as counting toward the EU’s renewable energy targets.
On the heels of the vote, a group of NGOs from across the EU have filed a legal case seeking to block forest bioenergy and forestry projects from inclusion under the Sustainable Finance Taxonomy, the EU’s new guidance for sustainable investments. The case is being brought by Baldon Avocats, assisted by the Lifescape Project and the Partnership for Policy Integrity (PFPI).
Together, these measures could be a turning point for the EU, which allows energy from wood-burning to count toward renewable energy targets.
While only 3% of the EU’s total energy comes from burning forest biomass for heat and electricity, logging of forests for biomass has increased dramatically over the past decade due to renewable energy incentives. Biomass demand is driving logging of old growth forests in the EU, as well as pellet exporting countries like the US and Canada. Scientists warn that logging and burning forests for fuel increases atmospheric carbon pollution for decades to centuries.
Power plants burning forest biomass currently receive a significant portion of the €17 billion per year that EU member states grant in bioenergy subsidies overall.
Increasing alarm among scientists, policymakers and the public over damage to forests and climate led to the EP’s proposal to change course on forest biomass. The Taxonomy standards for bioenergy are essentially the same as the criteria that qualify bioenergy under the RED and that have triggered calls for reform. The legal case on the Taxonomy argues that the criteria for forestry and bioenergy projects fail to deliver climate mitigation and protect ecosystems, key requirements of the EU’s Taxonomy Regulation.
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