Burnout: E.U. Clean Energy Policies Lead to Forest Destruction

Issue Paper
November 12, 2019

Addressing our climate emergency requires every country to immediately and dramatically reduce its use of fossil fuels and replace them with clean energy such as solar or wind. In the European Union, unfortunately, biomass energy is also categorized as a renewable energy source. It’s not. Biomass energy comes from burning plant matter—typically trees and other wood—as fuel. Research has shown it to be dirty and destructive. Burning forest biomass releases large amounts of climate-warming pollution into the atmosphere and destroys crucial carbon-capturing ecosystems, setting us back decades in the fight against climate change right when we most need to be moving forward with urgency.

To make matters worse, E.U. member states are providing huge financial subsidies to prop up these dirty biomass-fueled power plants.

This report provides the first, full accounting of how 15 E.U. member states subsidize bioenergy. Amongst them are the countries most reliant on this dirty fuel. The report also offers recommendations for how to reverse this dangerous trend, which is necessary if the E.U. wants to be a leader on addressing climate change. Moving forward, countries considering new policies to replace aging fossil fuel-based energy infrastructure, both inside and outside the European Union, must rule out incentives for burning forest biomass instead of or alongside coal.