Europe’s clean energy plan is flawed as it allows burning trees to qualify as renewable energy.
That’s the verdict from a group of scientists from a range of international universities, which say countries, power plants and factories involved in this practice are accelerating climate change, increasing pollution and devastating forests.
The EU aims to double Europe’s current renewable energy by 2030 but the group says it must not include wood burning in this category – it says forest biomass should only be used as a fuel when it has been legitimately sourced from residues and waste.
The signatories say waste wood decomposes and releases its carbon dioxide in a few years either way, so can be used to displace fossil fuels.
However, it claims cutting down additional trees to burn them for energy has fundamentally different consequences because the carbon released into the air would otherwise stay locked up in forests.
The group says burning wood releases even more carbon than coal per unit of energy generated and burns at a lower temperature, producing less power.
It estimates using deliberately harvested wood instead of fossil fuels will release at least twice as much carbon dioxide to the air by 2050 per kilowatt hour.