Who is the Clean Air Committee
In collaboration with many domestic and foreign NGOs, scientists and residents’ groups. CSL specifically fights against biomass combustion as a form of subsidized so-called ‘renewable energy’. Main objections are: 1. Air pollution due to extra emissions of nitrogen, CO2 (higher than coal), particulate matter and other substances of concern; 2 Nature destruction and decline in (endangered) animals due to sharply increased forest and clear-cutting in the EU & beyond the US; 3. Discouragement of making (fossil) industry more sustainable. The SDE (16 billion at EU level) sustainability subsidies used for biomass do not encourage industry to look for truly sustainable forms of energy and do not structurally and substantially invest in energy saving, electrification, reuse, and recycling.
CSL does this by functioning non-stop as an intermediary between politics, the (forestry & energy) sector and science, and translating current developments to society in a jocular way through A. (social) media performances; B local, regional and (inter)national actions; C petitions; D opinion pieces; E (practical) reports and documentaries. With the aim of increasing knowledge & awareness regarding the need to reduce emissions, air pollution and nature destruction and thereby mobilize residents to be socially and politically active.
CSL originated from grassroots and was founded in 2018 by residents of Ijburg to protest the planned biomass power station of Vattenfall (Diemen). Within 6 months CSL was active regionally and (inter)nationally through active collaboration with residents’ groups, NGOs, and scientists. Today, CSL has become the face of NL and one of the leading voices in Europe on the campaign for clean air and conservation of forests and biodiversity.
Why does it matter?
CSL has built up an extensive network over the past 5 years through intensive cooperation with residents & NGOs. With this, CSL has achieved a large ranch in society, and influence in politics, both in NL and Brussels. This is evident from the following results, including: 1. Cooperation NGOs NL >110, EU >181; 2. Opinion pieces (inter)national newspapers >64; 3. Protest actions >45; 4. Petitions NL >30K, Petition EU >240K; 5. Documentary Wood Fever, views >143K.
Effects: A. Both SER advice (2020) and B. The Remkes Committee (2020) concluded that it is necessary to phase out biomass combustion as soon as possible due to the ongoing CSL campaign. Where 5 years ago the combustion of biomass was still generally seen as the solution for achieving climate goals, Dutch Climate Minister (EZK) Rob Jetten now acknowledges, under the direct influence of CSL (ongoing campaign and petition 280k), the sustainability problem with biomass combustion. C. For this reason, the government immediately stopped new subsidies for woody biomass last year. Criteria both D. EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED3.2023) and E. NL Parliamentary letter on the policy deployment of bio-raw materials (2023) were tightened in response to CSL campaign in collaboration with the international coalition. CSL will also participate in the forthcoming Round Table Conversations on Biomass in the House of Representatives on June 15, 2023.
What does the Clean Air Committee add?
CSL has turned out to be an inspiring example for many citizens’ initiatives in both NL & EU that fight against biomass plants in their region. But also, for citizens’ committees in countries of origin (Baltic States, US) that campaign in collaboration with CSL against the disastrous effects of forest and clear-cutting for export, as well as human rights violations and environmental pollution. The biomass debate has become so polarized that many media no longer dare to touch it. Instead of open debate, nature NGOs, including the Clean Air Committee, regularly face negative treatment, framing and intimidation from industry. For this reason, the ecological perspective from conservationists is essential. Large regular environmental organizations were not an active participant in the biomass discussion between 2016-2021 due to their commitment to a sustainability covenant with industry. CSL jumped into this gap, opened the discussion, and acted as a forerunner. Due to the paradigm shift regarding biomass (from biomass as a solution 2000-2020 to biomass as a sustainability problem and termination of new biomass subsidies in 2022), largely achieved by CSL, political developments in NL are closely followed by industry. Also, from surrounding EU Member States, China, Japan, England, Australia & America are being watched. Multinationals fear reputational damage from angry citizens, as happened to Vattenfall.NL through CSL actions (Joint NGO urgent letter in combination with protest actions in Amsterdam, Berlin & Sweden in 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023). For these reasons, and as regards monitoring implementation of energy sustainability policy for the effects of Climate & Nature, continuation of CSL in collaboration with the (inter)national network is essential.
How can you contribute to the Clean Air Committee?
If you ask citizens what their individual influence is on the Climate, most will probably say: none or minimal influence. CSL would like to (continue to) play this pioneering role by giving citizens and young people in particular a voice. This allows the climate agenda to be influenced from below rather than by top-down political-industrial mechanisms. Precisely because Clean Air is difficult to manage and make imaginable in an action perspective, inspiring and mobilizing citizens based on a shared need/sense of urgency is crucial. By not only focusing on the problem, but also on the solutions, you can strengthen the voice of CSL and thus contribute to the realization of its goal: clean air for people, animals, and nature.
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.