Bioenergy on Film

PRODUCTS AVAILABLE NOW:

CHANTED ECOLOGY. LITHUANIAN OLD GROWTH FORESTS ARE UNDER INCREASING PRESSURE FOLLOWING THE FOREST MANAGEMENT REFORM OF 2017 – 2018. DANGEROUS EXPLOITATION OF BIOMASS IS VIEWED THROUGH THE EYES OF FOLK (SUTARTINES) SINGERS, GRASSROOT ACTIVISTS, ANALYSTS AND GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS.

BIOMASS IN INTERNATIONAL PROTOCOLS. A SHORT DISCUSSION WITH MARKUS REITERER, SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE ALPINE CONVENTION, TOUCHES ON THE MAIN DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ALTERNATIVE ENERGY EXPLOITATION IN ALPINE VS. CARPATHIAN COUNTRIES.

ROMANIA: BIOMASS, A THREAT TO VIRGIN FORESTS. CONSERVATIONISTS AND GOVERNMENTAL EXPERTS CRITICISE THE FALSE CARBON AVERSION AND CARBON TRADING WHEN FOREST BIOMASS  IS CONSIDERED “GREEN” ENERGY.

CUTTING TREES FOR CLIMATE. The short is tackling the dilemmatic relation between bioenergy (perceived as renewable) and the imperative to conserve biodiversity (against deforestation, higher emissions, biodiversity loss) in POLAND and ROMANIA.

TREES AS TRADE-OFFS ON THE CARBON MARKET. THE FOREST SINK IS DIMINISHING DUE TO LOOPHOLES IN THE EU LEGISLATION. EXPERTS FROM TRANSPORT &ENVIRONMENT AND BIRDLIFE EUROPE SHED A LIGHT ON HOW UNITS OF BIOMASS ARE BEING MONETIZED INTO UNITS OF CARBON.

BLACK BOOK OF BIOENERGY IS MENTIONING THE ISSUES RELATED TO RIVER-RIPARIAN FORESTS IN ITALY THAT ACT AS NATURAL LEVEES. LOSS OF SUCH FORESTS WOULD MEAN NOT ONLY A BLOW TO BIODIVERSITY AND CARBON SINKS, BUT ALSO A CLEAR AND PRESENT FLOOD DANGER FOR THE COMMUNITIES IN THE VALLEYS.

BIALOWIEZA: AN OLD STORY OF BIOMASS. IN THE OLDEST OF THE EUROPEAN LOWLANDS, GOVERNMENTAL SAWS CREATE THE TRANSITION TO “GREEN” ENERGY. THE CULPRIT: A LITTLE BUG, THE SPRUCE BARK BEETLE.


 

The films above will be compiled in a one-off documentary under the working title Cutting Trees for Climate. The prospectus is being developed infra.

 

TAGLINE

If trees spoke for themselves…

ONE LINER

In the name of flawed climate policies, deforestation is sold as a green solution. This is not happening in far away tropical countries, but in some of the last natural forests of the European continent.

Why now?

Green groups across Europe are aiming at changing climate policies that allow for deforestation. Commodification of forests and trees has always been a trait of human development; people always needed to burn wood or clear land for agriculture. However, it is for the first time in our global history that forests become subjects of trade under financial or carbon schemes. In short, paradoxically, we are carrying on with deforestation in order to mitigate climate change.

Main environmental NGOs and networks, such as WWF, Greenpeace or Birdlife are part of it. The film is molding on this groundbreaking effort of the civil society.

Furthermore…

Scientists, activists and conservationists in Romania, Poland, Lithuania and Finland are fighting an uphill battle to protect some of the last living laboratories for science, the natural forests of the continent, against the invisible hand (in truth, manned by local and national politicians) of absurd policies with a claim to sustainability. These natural forest ecosystems are not only some of the last barriers against catastrophic climate change as carbon sinks, but are also a means for science to study and understand nature in its own element, something that is becoming a rarity with humans encroachment.

Objective

Through a string of interviews mixed with an observational approach to the work of scientists in the field, our aim is twofold:

  1. expose bioenergy policies as hot air and more, as actually threatening Europe’s last natural forests.
  2. show why and how science and humans benefit from the existence of these natural habitats.

 

SYNOPSIS

What are we shooting?

We are aiming at specific primeval forests endangered as a consequence of legal loopholes. Locations scouted and researched are:

  1. Bialowieza Forest in Eastern Poland
  2. Carpathian Forest in Romania’s Transylvanian Alps
  3. Baltic old growth forests in Lithuania
  4. Other forests of the sort.

 

The films are short. They convey messages about the value of forests in (re)defining bioenergy, all against a backdrop of testimonies from interviews with academics, politicians, groups and their perspective. It brings thus a holistic view to what carbon emissions and sinks are, to interrelations within forest ecosystems, to the profound impact of invasive human forest management at the beginning of the Anthropocene, to the cultural constructions related to forests, and, finally, to the meaning of life and death as sourced in slow primeval environments. Ultimately, the work is a critique of the exploitative mindset of human societies that is paradoxically employed even as we are trying to reduce our impact on natural ecosystems and mitigate climate change to have a shot at a stable living environment.

This narrative is deployed against the mantra of forest management and forest schemes that generally have a common denominator: the cutting and clearing of trees – even if it is done “sustainably, with modern scientific bases”. To be clear, our message is not against sustainably managed forestry. Instead we are trying to show that the ‘sustainability’ argument is often used to mediate for an ever-increasing expansion and exploitation of forests in Eastern European countries.

The stories will flow thematically (pests, illegal logging, biomass etc.), geographically (Poland, Romania, Lithuania), diachronically (modern evolution of scientific forestry). The video stories will be supported by accessible in-depth structured information (infographics, illustrations, text and photos) sourced from the most relevant scientific findings, policy positions and impact of current and future policies.

Finally, for screening purposes, the product will also be edited into a one-off film.

 

Prospective one-off documentary and characters

At the core of a 52’ film lie stories of love, all interconnected. The main characters so far are:

  • Joao and his wife, a painter of trees, in Bialowieza, Poland,
  • The Prombergers in the Carpathian Forest, Romania,
  • Sutartines singers, related to the Baltic forests of Lithuania,

 

HISTORY AND BACKGROUND

  1. Biomass. Coal is slowly being phased out and there is a strong need for alternative energy. More biomass from forests seems to be the (green) answer. But even dead trunks in the forest mean and sustain life.

As they photosynthesize, they produce hydrocarbons, which fuel their growth, and over the course of their lives, they store up to 22 tons of carbon dioxide in their trunks, branches, and root systems. When they die, the same exact quantity of greenhouse gases is released as fungi and bacteria break down the wood, process the carbon dioxide, and breathe it out again. The assertion that burning wood is climate neutral is based on this concept. After all, it makes no difference if it’s small organisms reducing pieces of wood to their gaseous components or if the home hearth takes on this task, right? But how a forest works is way more complicated than that.

Most of this carbon remains locked in the ecosystem forever. The crumbling trunk is gradually gnawed and munched into smaller and smaller pieces and worked, by fractions of inches, more deeply into the soil. The rain takes care of whatever is left, as it flushes organic remnants down into the soil. The farther underground, the cooler it is. And as the temperature falls, life slows down, until it comes almost to a standstill. And so it is that carbon dioxide finds its final resting place in the form of humus, which continues to become more concentrated as it ages. In the far distant future, it might even become bituminous or anthracite coal.

 

  1. Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC). The same quest for alternative energy, and this time biofuels take the limelight, leads towards a pressure on forests as they are not agricultural land, therefore they are “not useful”.

Energy used to plough the land, to seed, to harvest and to transport is emitting more CO2 than what plants can capture. If the crop is not growing well, you can already emit more carbon than you save (Carbon per hectare). The thing is, when we have to evaluate the greenhouse gas emitted in the agricultural process, that gas does not have a national boundary so we have to do the analyses at global level. Whatever we do in Romania, Italy or Brazil it does not matter to the air because all gas ends up in the atmosphere.

Where will the biofuels be grown (land availability)? Agricultural land has increased in geometrical progression along the last decades. In Europe we are using less land, but if one looks at what is happening if Latin America or other parts of the world, we will see that Europe is importing soy beans, for example, which were grown on 50 million hectares outside. While Europe saves, say, 5-7 million hectares, it puts the claim of land requirement to other parts of the world.

What counts is what happens globally so we are using more land for our food production than in the last few decades and the question is will we need more or less land to grow and feed the increasing number of people. People are becoming richer so they will require richer diets. For the coming decades we will need more agricultural land in the world ONLY to feed the people, around 200 million hectares more ONLY for food crops and not taking into account biofuels. This is the background of the debate and on top of that we need biofuels. Each and every hectare that we use for biofuel, it will put the claim on even more land.

In the end, if we need more land it should come from somewhere. We will not use desserts so whatever we have in expansion are areas that are fertile and that yield a reasonable production. These are almost always the FORESTS.

 

  1. Carbon Schemes. Until recently, international carbon schemes involving forests, land use and land use change were mainly focused on tropical rainforests. Currently, European forests, mostly from the Eastern side of the continent became objects of carbon trade.

European Trading System (EU ETS). The EU ETS was designed principally as a technological driver for emission abatement by energy and industrial sources. It focuses upon permanent reductions by emission sources. The EU ETS covers between 40-45% of all GHG emissions and it includes most of the power sector, large industries and currently intra-EU flights. Installations under the EU ETS need to surrender allowances equivalent to their annual emissions. Allowances are received for free, bought in public auctions or traded with other installations. Major impediments to inclusion of carbon sequestration by forests are considered by the European Commission to include hazardous re-release of carbon from forests via fires, high transaction and administrative costs, added complexity, remaining uncertainties in quantification, monitoring and verification of emission removals, and unresolved leakage issues.

EU ETS could potentially provide a significant source of funding for EU forestry carbon sequestration activities. Afforestation and reforestation are among activities listed for potential funding using revenues from at least half the proceeds of auctioning EU emission allowances (EUAs) by Member States.

Effort Sharing Decision (ESD). ESD is responsible for between 55-60% of all GHG emissions in the EU. The largest sector included in the ESD is surface transport, which is responsible for more than a third of all ESD emissions. It is followed by emissions from buildings, agriculture and other sectors. Unlike the ETS, the entities regulated by the ESD are member states. Each country has an annual reduction target for the ESD sector. If they do not achieve it, they need to buy ESD allowances from other member states or make use of some of the available “flexibilities”. If they go beyond their allocated target for that specific year, they can save those allowances for another year or they can sell them to another member state. It is the responsibility of each member state to achieve their annual ESD target. Each member state has a different ESD target, serving as a sort of national carbon budget for the sectors included.

The land use, land use change, and forestry (LULUCF) sector removes more carbon from the atmosphere than it releases, and is therefore a ‘net sink’ for carbon. Some countries want carbon removals from forests and land use to count towards their emissions reduction efforts and thereby reduce the effort they have to make to cut emissions in ESD sectors, such as agriculture, surface transport and buildings. This could lead to additional emissions higher than one billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent in the coming decade.

 

  1. Pests” and “scientific exploitation”. Generally, forests are being perceived at best as providers of ecosystems services among which biomass prevails. Forest provides wood, wood turns into biomass, biomass turns into energy. Even in cases of primeval or virgin forests, the modern forestry is interventionist. Whether loads of dead trunks and other biomass “has to” be extracted or bark beetles attack healthy trees, foresters intervene in order to settle for the merchandise – wood.

 

TEAM

Raul Cazan, author and co-director. For more than five years, Raul is communicating EU’s policies in biodiversity and climate change as Editor-in-Chief of the cross-media environmental portal, 2Celsius Network, a product among few of this kind in Central and Eastern Europe. He has written books and researches on different themes related to environmental law and politics. He has decided that the academic arguments around green issues and their cultural projection must be dramatized. Thus, in 2015 he became a filmmaker while working on “Operation Climate” – a cross media participatory project carried out by ARTE TV that aimed at poetically expressing impacts of climate change in all corners of Europe. Operation Climate eventually became a full-fledged documentary that aired on ARTE TV in December 2015. He is currently a close collaborator of VICE in his home country, Romania.

Mihai Stoica, cinematographer and co-director, is a professional photographer that turned cinematic. As a photographer, he produced a series of photo-reportages on several environmental issues, e.g. Romania’s coal industry and UN climate negotiations. In 2008, he became a freelancer and since then has worked with several Romanian and international newspapers, magazines and NGOs. In 2009, he won the National Geographic International Photography Contest. Since 2015, he has plundged in the documentary filmmaking world, working as a researcher, producer, editor and director on documentaries that tackle social and environmental issues in Europe and South America. Since 2013, his work also includes lobbying and advocating for relevant climate change policies with a focus on transport emissions regulations in Europe.

Andrei Dudea, video editor.

2Celsius Network (2C) is a not-for-profit entity that deals primarily with multimedia production. It opens the way for a region-wide extended environmental media portal dedicated to the green economy and to containing climate change effects in Central and Eastern Europe. The platform is especially dedicated to Central and Eastern Europe`s green businesses and, equally, to the advance of the green collar economy. 2Celsius Film is the non-lucrative environmental documentary production branch of 2C.