European Commission risks repeating mistakes with its flawed proposals on bioenergy sustainability

November 15, 2016
Author:
Linde Zuidema

Today Politico has leaked the European Commission’s draft Winter Package on Climate and Energy which is expected to be released on November 30. The draft includes a major overhaul of the EU’s electricity market, and new rules for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Fern and other NGOs with expertise on forest issues have been calling on the EU to improve the proposed new Renewable Energy Directive and the new Sustainability Policy for Bioenergy. They see the rewrite of this legislation as the Commission’s opportunity to fix an energy policy that encourages the burning of wood for energy in a way that causes forest destruction, increases emissions and distorts the market for raw materials.

Fern is therefore concerned that the proposal doesn’t tackle concerns about the climate, nature or resource efficiency. In particular, it lacks tools to ensure that bioenergy achieves robust and verifiable greenhouse gas savings. The draft suggests a greenhouse gas accounting methodology which doesn’t take into account how removing biomass leads to changes in forest carbon stocks.

Despite the global chorus of NGO voices raising concerns about the need to limit the scale of bioenergy use – if left unchanged, the draft Renewable Energy Directive will actually increase reliance on biomass for renewable energy. Of particular concern are the target for advanced biofuels and the target for renewables in heating and cooling. The heating and cooling sector currently relies on biomass for around 85 per cent of its renewable energy.

Although the report seems to ignore the well-publicised wider concerns about bioenergy, there is at least one positive sign, as the draft rules out incentives for electricity-only biomass plants.

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