By Fenna Swart

At the initiative of Frans Timmermans in his recent role as Eurocommissioner, Brussels is pushing for biomass. As leader of the Dutch green/ socialist party (GL/PvdA), Timmermans faces the task of advocating the end of biomass. Inexplicable, thinks Fenna Swart.


After almost ten years in Brussels, Frans Timmermans is leaving his international career for the Dutch leader position of the (newly combined list)Greens/ Social Democrats. Upon his departure from Brussels, many praised his progress on European dossiers of environment and climate legislation. The latter, if nothing else, would make him suitable as the new leader of the Dutch, new Socialist Greens. But with his return to national politics, his credibility and that of the “greens” is at stake. ‘That one day you wake up on the floor with a tattoo on your face and a tiger in the bathroom, we have to take action now’. This is how Timmermans described his fear of ending up as a politician in 2017.

This month, at the start of the election campaign, Timmermans argues that citizen confidence should be the starting point in government as a condition for trust in the government. Set against Timmermans’ recent actions and European legacy, these are remarkable words. In addition to focusing on climate, Timmermans is focusing on nature legislation in Brussels. Ambitious and courageous, it seems. But his actions within the new European Renewable Energy Directive this year speak a different language. Biomass must in fact, according to Timmermans, remain a subsidized part of this. Not long after, the first twist follows. After years of denying reported abuses of clear-cutting, Timmermans admits, when asked, in a crowded room of Amsterdam students, that Baltic forests are being cut down for wood pellets. Yet even after this, he continues unabated to push and even expand biomass on the European agenda. Last spring, Timmermans promotes a new plan called REPowerEU. Russian fossil fuels, he says, should be replaced with biomass alongside accelerated investments in wind and solar. Again, striking timing. The European Environmental Commission has just indicated doubts about biomass as a climate solution and is calling for moderation. Timmermans is pushing ahead. Biomass is again included in the “sustainable” directive, early this year. Effect of this is catastrophic for nature and climate. From this moment, current estimates show a steady increase in subsidized biomass until at least 2040. More than ever, under EU rules, forests are being burned on a global scale, in the name of climate. And Timmermans’ European legacy is palpable. Also in the Netherlands. Almost all mainstream media (except De Telegraaf and PowNed/De Hofbar) and political parties (except Party for the Animals) blindly follow the Brussels biomass rhetoric: “biomass is sustainable”. But Timmermans has new ambitions and pivots. The election program of Dutch political party states that biomass plants should be ended and no new ones added.

Against this background, citizens will wonder how credible the proclaimed transition is and above all, how green their leader is. It makes little sense for a European climate leader to fail to plant three billion trees and encourage forest burning for ‘green’ energy and then, as Dutch political leader, talk about restoring nature and climate. So a dialogue? Yes! But with a tiger in the bathroom and bare bottom. Green policy is badly needed, but please under the leadership of reliable leaders, based on the real story.

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