New Report - Future on Fire: How the EU burns trees in the name of renewable energy

By the Forest Defenders Alliance

All wood was once part of a tree in a forest, a home to entire ecosystems that stores greenhouse gas.

The European Union currently funds the biomass industry to burn wood for energy,  but they’ve been told the industry uses leftover or dead wood - the wood that falls off trees, or bark, sawdust and wood residues. Not entire live trees.


Key takeaways from the report:

Burning wood emits more CO2 per unit energy than burning fossil fuels. 

Reabsorbing these emissions through forest regrowth takes decades to centuries - this is too late to respond to climate breakdown. We need action now.

Trees cut directly from forests supply at least half of the wood burned for energy in the EU and this is set to increase.

Researchers used satellites, drones and street view images to peek inside wood-burning power plants. These companies often write on their websites that they are burning sawdust and other wood “waste”. The report exposes that they’re also burning entire tree trunks. The size and hollows of some logs indicate they come from old natural forests.

Even if these plants are burning pellets or woodchips, they are made from forests. Surveys of factories where wood pellets are made also showed they were shredding entire trees. 

In the EU, biomass emits about as much carbon pollution as the entire reported emissions of Poland or Italy. 


Why should we care?

The European Commission has largely ignored the recommendations of its own scientists not to log and burn trees.

The EU calls biomass a “renewable energy”.

The EU pays massive subsidies, our public money to help reach renewable energy targets. This money funds logging for biomass.

Overall, logging for biomass is more damaging than traditional logging because these lucrative renewable energy subsidies make even previously “low value” trees worth cutting. Logged sites eliminate habitat for animals; reduce diversity of plants, animals, and fungi; and reduce soil fertility and carbon; and degrade the ability of forests to regrow. 

We need to keep our forests intact. It’s more clear than ever that biomass is not a sustainable energy source. There’s not enough wood waste to satisfy the “renewable energy” expectations on biomass. The report demonstrates that the EU’s voracious demand for biomass energy is eating away at forests, both in the EU and around the world. 


Read the full report in English here

Read media articles:
Politico (Brussels) - April 11 sustainability newsletter