EXCLUSIVE: Chatham House expert responds to IEA bioenergy report

A Chatham House expert has welcomed the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) contribution to the debate on whether using wood-based biomass for energy is speeding up climate warming.

Rob Bailey, research director of the Energy, Environment and Resources Department at Chatham House, told Bioenergy Insight: “It's good this discussion is being had and, while I disagree with IEA Bioenergy’s conclusions, I welcome its contribution to the debate. 

“The study draws on highly robust, up to date and peer-reviewed literature and its findings are clear: although some types of biomass can enable emissions reductions in the short term - others can lead to higher emissions over many decades.

“The challenge for policymakers is to design regulatory frameworks that ensure genuine emissions reductions in the near term, not 100 years in the future.”


 The debate was initiated by Chatham House when it published a report entitled ‘Woody biomass for power and heat impacts on the global climate’, late February.

It maintained that using biomass to generate low-carbon electricity is a flawed policy that is speeding up and not slowing down climate warming, according to a new study from Chatham House.

The study maintains that wood is not carbon neutral and emissions from pellets are higher than coal.

Subsidies for biomass should be immediately reviewed, the author of the Chatham House report, Duncan Brack, stated.

‘Not objective’

However, earlier this week (13 March, 2017) more than 125 academics have joined the IEA slamming Chatham House’s recent report on bioenergy, calling it “misleading”.

The group of academics from across the world and the IEA state that the report “does not present an objective overview of the current state of scientific understanding with respect to the climate effects of bioenergy”.

According to the IEA, with the upcoming EU-level discussion on the future of European energy, publications analysing the contribution of bioenergy have proliferated, including the recent Chatham House report.

The IEA points out that this report does not present an objective overview of the current state of scientific understanding with respect to the climate effects of bioenergy.

The report was analysed by members of the IEA Bioenergy Technology Collaboration Programme with globally recognised expertise in biomass production, carbon accounting and sustainability of biomass.

The members determined that the major conclusions and policy-specific recommendations are based on unsubstantiated claims and flawed arguments.

This story was written by Liz Gyekye, editor of Bioenergy Insight. 

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