Omission of bioenergy in UK trees plan raises concerns

Concerns have been raised over the UK Government’s omission of bioenergy in its ‘England Trees Action Plan’.

The plan has set a new target to triple woodland creation rates by the end of this Parliament and has confirmed that £500 million (€581 million) of the £640 million (€744 million) ‘Nature for Climate Fund’ will be spent on trees and woodland between 2020 and 2025.

Additionally, the government announced plans for a new ‘England Woodland Creation Offer’, as well as the launch of an Impact Fund to leverage private finance into new natural capital markets for carbon, biodiversity, and natural flood alleviation.

However, while welcoming the new funding and tree planting targets, the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA) has warned that the omission of bioenergy is likely to result in the government failing to meet its ambitions.

“Today’s announcement on funding and a new target for tree planting is welcome, but it can only take us so far,” said Sam Tickle, policy analyst at the REA.

“To achieve it, the government needs to recognise the valuable end-uses for forestry and the benefits of active management. One such use is bioenergy, which uses woodland and energy crop feedstocks to produce low-carbon energy.

“This end use was recognised in the initial consultation, which described the ‘important role’ bioenergy can play in greening our electricity and heat systems. It also recognised the option that perennial energy crops can play in diversifying a farmer’s business.

“This is backed by the Climate Change Committee, which calls for increased planting of energy crops as well as predicting increased demand for bioenergy to get to net-zero. Yet, there is no mention of bioenergy, energy crops, or energy forestry in the government’s England Trees Action Plan.

“This is despite foresters outlining energy forest plantations and bringing woods into management as two of their top four priorities in the consultation. The government will not meet its ambitions by excluding key drivers in forestry, and we would remind them that profitable woodlands encourage more woodlands.”

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