120 groups from 30 countries want an end to monetary, policy support of large-scale burning of forest biomass for energy
Wednesday October 24, 2018
Unceded Coast Salish Territories (Vancouver, BC) — A loud chorus of civil society organizations representing millions of people around the world today released The Biomass Delusion, a statement expressing concern over the large-scale burning of forest biomass for energy. The global release is happening on #BioenergyDay, an effort by the North American Wood Products Industry to promote the expansion of this false solution to climate change.
Canada is the second largest exporter of wood pellets and supplies the EU, Japan, and South Korea, among a range of other countries. Burning wood pellets in place of coal is promoted as a “renewable energy” solution despite the fact that large-scale biomass energy emits up to 50% more greenhouse gases at the smokestack than coal.
In Canada, forest loss and fragmentation impacts the traditional lands of First Nations, degrades the forest’s ability to store carbon and serve as a climate solution, and contributes to significant declines in caribou populations — an indicator species for the health and intactness of the forest.
“Biomass is a dangerous delusion for climate change mitigation. Forests are vital for mitigating the worst impacts of climate change and should not be destroyed or degraded to produce energy. Canada needs real climate leadership that protects and restores forests, not the expansion of false climate solutions.” -Tyson Miller, Forest Programs Director at Stand.earth
The UK, Japan, and South Korea will likely continue to be major drivers of the expansion of wood pellet exports in Canada for decades to come. Japan’s biomass consumption alone may require up to 20 million tons of wood pellets annually by 2030 — the equivalent to approximately 80 million trees. Canadian wood pellets would represent about 70% of that total.
The loss Canada’s forests is having a vast impact on the climate. From 2001 to 2017, Canada lost 38.6 million hectares of tree cover — equivalent to a 9.2% loss in tree cover since 2000. As a result of that tree cover loss, 1.5 billion tons of CO2 was released into the atmosphere — the equivalent of nearly 325,000 cars driving 4,500 kilometres.
ABOUT THE STATEMENT
The statement comes on the heels of the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels, outlining a startlingly short timeframe of 10-12 years to rapidly reduce emissions and limit global warming to that threshold. A key highlight of the report was the importance of protecting and restoring forests alongside rapid reductions in fossil CO2 emissions to keep temperature increases within limits that could prevent catastrophic climate change.
In summary, the statement concludes that the expansion of the forest biomass industry is misguided due to four key issues:
- It harms the climate as burning forest biomass is not low carbon and its encouraged by flawed systems of emission accounting.
- It harms the forests by threatening their biodiversity and climate resilience as well as undermines their climate mitigation potential.
- It harms people as the industries often undermine community rights and interests and biomass burning harms human health and well-being.
- It harms the clean energy transition as it provides a life-line for continuing to burn coal for energy production and pulls investments away from other renewable energy sources.
The full statement and its signatories can be found at: http://environmentalpaper.org/the-biomass-delusion/.