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Environmental groups call to remove wood-based biomass from EU Renewable Energy Directive

More than 110 environmental groups across the globe have signed a declaration demanding that bioenergy be excluded from the EU's next Renewable Energy Directive (RED).

The EU is considering renewal of the RED for 2020 onwards in a consultation which ended yesterday (10 February). A decision is expected by the end of the year.

The RED will determine Europe's path forward on meeting its carbon emissions reductions targets following the Paris agreement signed December 2015.

Bioenergy already accounts for around two-thirds of energy classed as renewable in the EU, and the EU currently anticipates that industrial bioenergy will continue playing a major part in its renewable energy strategy.

In a statement, US wood protection group Dogwood Alliance, said: "Burning wood for energy increases carbon pollution in the atmosphere for decades to centuries, published science shows. Indeed, so-called "biomass" is even more carbon-intensive than coal when measured at the smokestack.

"The EU, however, currently treats wood energy as "carbon neutral" despite contrary scientific evidence."

The group claims that this stance is "damaging trees".

"Rapidly increasing European demand for wood pellets globally, with US leading the way, is having a devastating impact on the forests and communities of the Southern US," said Adam Macon from Dogwood Alliance.

"We've joined with over 110 other groups to send a strong signal to the EU and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that they must change their mind on bioenergy or risk doing far more harm than good. It's clear that support for bioenergy in the EU is directly impacting forests internationally and the people that depend on them, as well as incentivising even greater carbon emissions."

In the US, the forest products industry and several states are pushing the EPA to classify biomass energy as a "carbon neutral" method of complying with the Clean Power Plan's carbon pollution standards for power plants, according to Dogwood.

Just last week the Senate adopted an amendment to a bipartisan energy bill that could force EPA and other agencies to ignore biomass carbon pollution despite the science.

"The science is clear that large-scale burning of wood to generate electricity will make the climate crisis worse, so it shouldn't be used in Europe or the US," said Kevin Bundy, senior attorney and climate legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

He added: "Native forests across the Southeast are being clearcut to satisfy European demand for wood pellets, all because the EU ignores climate pollution from bioenergy. The EU has to fix its anti-science mistake — and our own Congress has to avoid repeating it."