Europe’s renewable energy directive is poised to harm the global forests

Europe's decision to promote the use of wood as a "renewable fuel" will likely greatly increase Europe's greenhouse gas emissions and cause severe harm to the world's forests.


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European authorities on definite dialect for a renewable energy source mandate prior this mid-year that will twofold Europe’s utilization of sustainable power source by 2030. Against the counsel of 800 researchers, the order presently regards wood as a low-carbon fuel, implying that entire trees or huge parts of trees can be chopped down purposely to consume. Such uses go beyond papermaking squanders and other wood squanders, which have for some time been utilized for bioenergy, yet not to this magnitude.

Now a study published in the journal Nature Communications suggests that Europe’s decision to promote the use of wood as a “renewable fuel” will likely greatly increase Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions. It may also lead to severe harm to the global forests.

The study estimates that this bioenergy provision in the Renewable Energy Directive will prompt huge new cutting of the world’s forests. This is on the grounds that extra wood equivalent to the majority of Europe’s current wood harvests will be required just to supply 5 percent of Europe’s energy.

Moreover, the study also suggested that using wood for energy will likely result in 10 to 15 percent in emissions from Europe’s energy use by 2050. This could occur by turning a 5 percent decrease in emissions required under the directive using solar energy or wind energy into a 5 to 10 increase by using wood.

Study lead author Tim Searchinger said, “Globally if the world were to supply only an additional 2 percent of its energy from wood, it would need to double commercial wood harvests around the world with harsh effects on forests.”

“Although wood is renewable, cutting down and burning wood for energy increases carbon in the atmosphere for decades to hundreds of years depending on a number of factors. Bioenergy use in this form takes carbon that would otherwise remain stored in a forest and puts it into the atmosphere. Because of various inefficiencies in both the harvesting and burning process, the result is that far more carbon is emitted up smokestacks and into the air per kilowatt hour of electricity or heat than burning fossil fuels.”

The paper also explains why the European directive’s sustainability conditions would have little consequence. Even if trees are cut down “sustainably,” that does not make the wood carbon free or low carbon because of added carbon in the atmosphere for such long periods of time.

The directive also misapplies accounting rules for bioenergy originally created for the U.N. Framework Convention Climate Change (UNFCCC). Under the rules of that treaty, countries that burn wood for energy can ignore emissions, but countries, where the trees were chopped, must count the carbon lost from the forest.

Although this rule allows countries switching from coal to wood to ignore true emissions figures, it balances out global accounting, which is the sole purpose of those rules and does not make bioenergy carbon-free.

The framework does not work for national energy laws, which will be required by the order. In the event that power plants have strong motives to change from coal to carbon-neutral wood, they will consume wood paying little heed to any genuine ecological outcomes. Regardless of whether nations providing the wood report outflows through UNFCCC, those emanations are not the power plants’ concern.

At long last, the paper features how the approach undermines long stretches of endeavors to save trees by recycling utilized paper as opposed to consuming it for energy. Likewise, as the costs organizations are required to pay for emitting carbon dioxide increased after some time, the off-base bookkeeping of backwoods biomass Europe has embraced will make it more productive to chop down trees to copy.

Dan Kammen, University of California, Berkeley said, “Compared with the vast majority of what counts as ‘bioenergy by harvesting wood,’ solar and wind have large advantages in land use efficiency and lower costs. The focus on wood is not only counter-productive for climate change but unnecessary.”


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