Environmental NGOs sent letters to energy ministers of all 27 EU member states today objecting to continued promotion of burning trees and other forest biomass for renewable energy. Ministers will be meeting for an “Informal Energy and Transport Ministerial Meeting” in Stockholm on February 27-28, where the question of renewable energy and the role of burning forest biomass is likely to be discussed. Urging the Council and Presidency to adopt a science-based policy on biomass, the letters discuss how logging and burning forests for fuel harms ecosystems and the climate, providing specific evidence for each member state.

Whether energy from burning trees and other forest biomass should be counted as renewable and continue to be eligible for billions in renewable energy subsidies is one of the most highly contested issues in the ongoing the Trilogue on the Renewable Energy Directive, where the Parliament, Council, and Commission are supposed to develop joint policy.

The letter highlights that despite the Council having endorsed a commitment in the Renewable Energy Directive to follow scientific guidance on biomass and avoid promoting bioenergy that harms biodiversity and ecosystems, the Council’s current proposal falls far short of needed reforms and would if adopted contribute to continued destruction of forests and increased greenhouse gas emissions.

Each letter includes excerpts from the European Commission’s review of how well member states characterized future biomass logging impacts on the forest carbon sink in their National Energy and Climate Plans. Increasing the EU’s carbon sink is considered essential for achieving net zero emissions, but most member states are losing or have completely lost their carbon sinks, even as they continue to log and burn forest wood and count it as “zero carbon” renewable energy. The Commission found that without exception, member states failed to include required information on biomass use, sourcing, and carbon sink impacts.

A representative letter (to Sweden) is below. Data on biomass use, the land carbon sink, and the EC review of NECP biomass planning for all the member states are available here.