Can’t Burn Our Way Out of the Climate Crisis

8 December 2018

Everyone knows that CO2 emissions from burning coal are a massive contributor to climate change. Yet there’s confusion about burning wood. In fact, generating a unit of energy from wood emits more CO2 upfront than generating it from coal!

Even if forests are allowed to regrow, using wood deliberately harvested for burning will increase carbon in the atmosphere and warming for decades to centuries €“as many studies have shown €“even when wood replaces coal, oil or natural gas. The reasons are fundamental and occur regardless of whether forest management is ‘sustainable,” 800 scientists told the EU Parliament earlier this year.

Large scale energy facilities burning forest biomass or co-firing it with coal are mushrooming. In the next decade, this energy source is projected to increase by 250% globally. It mostly cannot and will not be sourced from post sawmill residues as misleadingly represented. The exorbitant harvest of trees for energy has a huge impact on climate, forests and people.

The text for accounting under APA 3 would allow countries to burn biomass with zero of the carbon emissions being accounted. Absolutely zero. This would not only increase atmospheric carbon in the precious few years left to stabilize the climate, but would also undermine a transition to truly clean renewables. More countries are finding it easier to have NDCs that swap coal power plants with wood pellets rather than build new wind or solar. To fix this, the land sector must be accounted for like any other.

At this COP, the bioenergy industry is peddling this false solution: in a conference on Thursday and at showy event in the Polish pavilion on Monday. Next week’s Forest Declaration will probably push it too.

We have to go beyond burning to save the climate. Yet, citizens and decision makers are being misled and accounting scams make it seem that this is a carbon neutral energy source, which, ECO is here to warn, is not true.

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