The Energy sector is the most polluting sector in the world. It causes three quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions. Heavy polluters such as China, India and South Africa will have to do much more, but achieving a CO2-free energy mix as agreed in the Paris Agreement will not succeed on the chosen path – with woody biomass combustion.
However, the citizens are not without a chance. In the Netherlands, for example, there has been a striking paradigm shift with regard to biomass in recent years. Two years ago biomass combustion was widely seen as the solution to achieving the Climate Goals, it is now regarded as a problem that we must eliminate as soon as possible.
In the Netherlands, this revolution was largely caused by pressure from society and science. Where political parties, both left and right – but also and especially the green parties together with the large nature NGOs – left the biomass dossier for a long time. The Clean Air Committee Comite’ Schone Lucht played an important role by acting as a critical link between politics, science and the energy sector. By not only reacting, but also anticipating current developments and translating the message to society, there has been increasing awareness about the bad side of biomass. At present, a vast majority (98%) in society believes that woody biomass combustion should be banned.
The Netherlands functions as a forerunner in this regard. For this reason, political and social developments in our country are followed with great interest from abroad, not only from the surrounding EU member states, but also from Japan, England, Australia and America. A few years ago biomass proved to be a lucrative business for the energy and forestry industry. Large entrepreneurs and multinationals are now shrinking because they fear major reputational damage by angry citizens, as happened to Vattenfall, among others, but billions of euros in subsidies are at stake.
Against this background, the question is no longer whether biomass will be removed from the renewable energy list, but when. The point of no return has been passed. It is only a matter of time before EU climate policy will eliminate the burning of biomass.