Actions ahead of Brussels plenary vote on ”Renewable Energy Directive” (RED).

On Thursday evening September 1 two actions will be carried out simultaneously in the Netherlands and Germany at prominent locations by Comite Schone Lucht (NL) and ROBIN WOOD (GE). The two NGO’s are members of the International Coalition against Burning Forest Biomass. With these actions, the energy industry as well as the Dutch and German governments are called to stop burning forest biomass for energy and heat. In addition, Brussels is warned to prepare for more actions by the coalition on September 5, 6 and 7, ahead of Brussels plenary vote on ”Renewable Energy Directive” (RED).

Much of Europe’s renewable energy comes from biomass combustion, which emits more CO2 per unit of energy than fossil fuel combustion. This is the opposite of what is required.

Clean Air Committee

On September 13, the European Parliament will vote on the Renewable Energy Directive (RED). This is a crucial moment where a vote will also be taken on whether or not to continue subsidies for forest biomass combustion (wood burning) under this directive. If subsidies continue, companies will shift more and more the use of fossil energy to wood. Since the war in Ukraine at the beginning of this year, due to the REPowerEU plan of Brussels, extra efforts have been made on industrial wood burning. The Netherlands is the largest importer of forest biomass in Europe. On an annual basis, 6 million tons of wood is burned in the Netherlands, based on more than 850 million euros per year that is spent on promoting this through government subsidies.

For more information about the actions, please contact
Comite Schone Lucht & ROBIN WOOD
Fenna Swart, vz CSL| +31 (0)6-415 14 330
Jana Ballenthien, vz. ROBIN WOOD, +49 (0)40 380 892 11

Watch short film: Action Coalition Brussels, 2022

To achieve our climate and nature goals, we must protect and restore forests, instead of burning them for energy. Burning more trees can not improve the EU’s energy security, as EU power and biomass plants already import millions of tons of wood pellets from Russia, Ukraine and the US/Canada. Power and biomass plants are already short of EU wood and need to import from countries now blocked by war, or from long way off. Those are no longer secure supplies for energy.

Main reasons for removing biomass incentives from the European RED are, according to the Coalition:

  • ➢  €40 BILLION IN SUBSIDIES are raised by European taxpayers to support the combustion of biomass. These should be invested in real renewable energy sources;
  • ➢  INCREASED (CO2) EMISSIONS: Burning wood emits more CO2 per unit of energy than gas and coal (in addition it emits ultrafine particles). Total CO2 emissions from wood burning in the EU are roughly equivalent to all of France’s CO2 emissions;
  • ➢  NON RENEWABLE: Burning wood is not renewable and is counterproductive to achieving the 2030 and 2050 climate goals. Burning wood quickly emits CO2, but trees take decades to centuries to grow back and recapture the emitted CO2;
  • ➢  UNSUSTAINABLE: The RED’s sustainability criteria are very weak and vague. Supervision and compliance are lacking. Forests in Natura2000 areas are not protected;
  • ➢  NO CONTRIBUTION TO ENERGY SECURITY IN GAS CRISIS: Replacing only 10% of Russian gas would require a 60% increase in logging in EU forests. Forests are currently already over-exploited and the carbon sequestration of European forests is decreasing significantly.

About the coalition and Clean Air Committee
The Clean Air Committee (Comité Schone Lucht) has been campaigning against forest biomass for many years in collaboration with ROBIN WOOD and the International Coalition against Burning Forest Biomass. These are (inter)national NGOs that object to biomass plants and co- firing biomass in coal plants for energy, through campaigns and legal proceedings. Together with MOB, the Committee successfully initiated legal proceedings against the nature permit for Vattenfall’s Diemen biomass power station, the largest planned power station in Europe. In collaboration with the Coalition, the Committee also continuously campaigned in recent years against the inclusion of biomass combustion in the revision of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) as part of the new European Climate Program Fit for 55, drawn up by the EU Commission. Every year 3.5 million tons of imported wood pellets are burned in Dutch coal-fired power stations (the required annual clear-cutting is approximately twice the total area of Amsterdam). The total operating subsidy in the period 2019-2027 amounts to 3.6 billion euros. That is 3.6 billion euros from the taxpayer for the most low-value application of wood that exists. The Clean Air Committee, in collaboration with the Forest Defenders Alliance, Dogwood Alliance, Biofuelwatch and international NGOs from the EU Member States, works in close collaboration with both the source countries of the wood pellets (Baltic States and the US). They have been campaigning together against these imports for years. This because of the huge negative climate effects, disastrous deforestation and clear-cutting of forests, the loss of biodiversity worldwide as a result and the effect of the emissions of biomass combustion on air quality (CO2, ultrafine particles, nitrogen).

Phasing out path of biomass in the Netherlands
At the beginning of this year, on April 21, the Clean Air Committee called on the Minister for Climate and Energy, Rob Jetten, on behalf of more than 320,000 Dutch & Europeans, to make haste with the termination of the SDE subsidies for biomass through a clear phase-out, in accordance with the SER advice (June 2020). Until then, the cabinet maintained, despite the SER’s advice, that burning wood from forests should be regarded as ‘CO2-free’ renewable energy. Wood burning was consequently promoted with biomass subsidies. The Committee’s continued actions and the petition were successful. The new minister followed the call. On April 22, the minister announced: ‘The Dutch money tap will be closed immediately for biomass’ warmte-uit-biogrondstoffen. The Committee called this a groundbreaking and courageous decision by the new minister:

The Netherlands is setting the tone and challenges Brussels. Much will depend on the continuation of the current (existing) subsidies and co-firing in coal-fired power stations. Tightening up of the EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED) and exclusion of biomass from the European platform is gaining momentum with this Dutch decision. This is a first step and great recognition for our work and ongoing campaigns in recent years at home and abroad on deception and abuses surrounding the biomass file,

said the Committee in response to April 22 of this year.