“Stop burning forests for energy,” urge Stand.earth and Emma Thompson

Tuesday February 01, 2022

Canada is subsidizing wood pellet exports to the UK while touting them false as a climate solution

səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), and Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) Territories (Vancouver, BC) — Stand.earth and UK actress and activist Emma Thompson are calling on the Canadian government today to stop investing in false climate solutions and keep forests standing.

A newly released video from environmental group Stand.earth, narrated by Thompson, explains how burning trees for energy is anything but clean, just or green. And yet, Canadian politicians are subsidizing the forest biomass industry to feed international demand for coal plants to burn. The greatest global demand is in the United Kingdom, where more wood than the UK can produce is being incinerated in the name of the green economy.

“If this industry continues to expand at its current rate in Canada, it will put millions of hectares of primary and old growth forests at risk,” said Maya Menezes, Senior Forests Campaigner, Stand.earth. “And its mass carbon emissions will only worsen the climate crisis. Nearby Indigenous and frontline communities will bear the brunt of this – we know that logging increases floods and fires, which swept across B.C. in 2021.”

At COP 26 in Glasgow this past November, scientists, policy experts and advocates sounded the alarm that replacing coal with burning forest biomass is increasing carbon emissions and destroying forest ecosystems. The use of wood pellets for “renewable” energy production has grown due the provision of massive subsidies by governments like the United Kingdom. In the UK the subsidies top a billion pounds, while provincial and federal subsidies in Canada help keep the forest biomass industry propped up with taxpayer dollars, instead of funding critical green energy that we will need to weather the climate crisis. 

Burning wood and other biomass currently accounts for around 60 per cent of renewable energy production in the EU and UK. Burning biomass emits more carbon dioxide per unit of energy generated than burning fossil fuels, and logging forests for fuel is degrading the forest carbon sink in Europe and in other regions that supply wood pellets, most notably the U.S. southeast, British Columbia and a range of other provinces in Canada. Despite these facts, most governments  still treat burning trees and other woody biomass as a “zero carbon” or “carbon neutral” form of renewable energy, making it eligible for lucrative subsidies earmarked for the new green economy.

In fact, Canada is now the world’s second largest exporter of wood pellets. Deliberately flawed emissions accounting are having devastating impacts on forests meaning that this industry is doubling it’s harmful climate impacts and raising emissions by masking them in a numbers game. 

“The propaganda spewed by major corporations and industry, that take hard earned tax dollars and churn them into multi-million dollar PR campaigns to discredit scientists, community leaders and poor people must end if we’re to meet the scale of the crisis we face,” said Menezes. “We have a message for forest biomass corporations peddling hypothetical science like carbon capture in the name of big business: we already have the most sophisticated carbon sequestration systems in our known universe - they are called forests.” 

To win true climate justice, we must move beyond burning carbon. Stand.earth is calling on the Canadian government to set a powerful domestic and international example by ending subsidies to the forest biomass industry and investing in real climate solutions.

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Media contacts: 

Ziona Eyob, Media Director - Canada, canadamedia@stand.earth, +1 604 757 7279 (Pacific Time)