Drax shareholders put Canadian forest, wildlife and the climate at risk by voting for acquisition of Canadian pellet company

Wednesday March 31, 2021

London, England and Unceded Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nation Territories (Vancouver, British Columbia) — Climate and forest campaigners worldwide are warning that today’s decision by Drax Group PLC shareholders to approve the company’s acquisition of the Canadian wood pellet producer, Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc, is far from sustainable and represents a highly risky move for Drax, both financially and reputationally. 

The acquisition is likely to- increase Drax’s contribution to biodiversity loss, carbon emissions and the potential for Indigenous Peoples’ land rights violations. Pinnacle’s activities are likely to worsen the degradation of some of the last remaining primary forests in Canada, putting wildlife—including threatened caribou—and the climate at greater risk. 

Michelle Connolly, Director of Conservation North, a Canadian community group based in British Columbia, said:

"Primary forests protect our communities from fires and floods, provide clean drinking water and offer vital wildlife habitat for species including threatened caribou. They also ensure jobs and recreation opportunities for local people. Logging primary forests to burn them overseas is an insult to forest communities."

Almuth Ernsting, researcher and campaigner with Biofuelwatch said: 

“Drax is the world’s largest tree burner (1) and already burns more wood than the UK produces in total in its power station every year, much of it from the clear-felling of some of the world’s most biodiverse forests in the Southeastern USA, Estonia, Latvia and Canada.” 

new investigation by Canadian NGO Stand.Earth  revealed that almost 845,000 hectares of unprotected primary forests in British Columbia (equivalent to 1.4 million soccer pitches) will be at risk of logging as a result of the takeover of Pinnacle Renewable Energy by Drax. (2) 

Tyson Miller, Forest Programs Director at Stand.earth said:

“It is astounding that Drax is using UK taxpayer money to turn some of the most carbon-rich forests on the planet into wood pellets. It takes decades to centuries for these Northern forests in Canada to recover and we simply don’t have that kind of time. Climate scientists are telling us that we need to do all we can to keep intact forests standing. Instead, by approving this acquisition, Drax shareholders are greenlighting further destruction and degradation of primary forests and threatened species habitat for a false climate solution.” 

Last week, 38 UK-based and international NGOs, including the sustainable investment group, ShareAction, signed an Open Letter calling on Drax shareholders to vote against the acquisition amid major concerns about the climate and environmental impacts of the Pinnacle deal. (3)

Wolfgang Kuhn from sustainable investment group ShareAction, said:

"Pretending that burning trees is sustainable just because new trees may be planted at some point in the future to absorb the emissions we produce from burning trees today is nonsense. It is extremely disappointing that Drax shareholders have voted to approve the company's plans to double its wood pellet supplies. 

The tide is turning and governments are starting to see through the biomass industry's claims to be carbon-neutral. Over 500 scientists agree that burning trees for energy is making the climate and ecological crises worse. (4) Investors should be clear – the last thing Drax needs is more reputational risks. The last thing investors should want is that kind of risk in their portfolios."

Canada is the world’s second largest exporter of wood pellets and much of the exported wood is burned in Drax which currently receives over £2 million per day in UK renewable subsidies to fund its tree burning.(5) Last month, over 500 scientists signed an open letter calling on world leaders to end subsidies for tree burning in power stations and to stop treating wood burning as “carbon neutral.” (6) 

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Media contacts

UK
Almuth Ernsting, Researcher and Campaigner, ‎Biofuelwatch, biofuelwatch@gmail.com, Tel: +44 131 623 2600

Canada
Ziona Eyob, Canadian Communication Manager, Stand.earth, canmedia@stand.earth, Tel: +1 604 757 7279

Notes for Editors

  1. https://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/drax-briefing-update-2020_compressed.pdf 

  2. https://www.stand.earth/latest/forest-conservation/forests-and-wood-pellets/new-investigation-uk%E2%80%99s-drax-bid-buy-pinnacle

  3. https://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/2021/drax-pinnacle-shareholder-letter/ 

  4. Letter from 500 scientists calling on world leaders to end policies that prop up the burning of trees for energy: https://www.wwf.eu/?uNewsID=2128466 

  5. https://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/drax-briefing-update-2020_compressed.pdf 

  6. https://news.mongabay.com/2021/02/500-experts-call-on-worlds-nations-to-not-burn-forests-to-make-energy/