How the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive risks destroying Europe’s forests

(EurActiv, 22 Jun 2021) If the European Union doesn’t want an explosion in the amount of wood being harvested for ‘renewable heat’, it’s essential that the bugs in the Renewable Energy Directive are fixed, write Samuel Thomas, Dominic Scott and Dr Jan Rosenow.

Samuel Thomas and Dominic Scott are senior advisors at the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP), an NGO dedicated to accelerating the transition to a clean, reliable, and efficient energy future. Dr Jan Rosenow is principal and European programme manager at RAP.

In meeting their 2020 renewable energy targets, EU Member States have overseen large increases in renewable power. But this has been accompanied by a less welcome development: a near doubling in the amount of energy derived from solid biomass, which is currently classified as zero carbon.

The majority of this biomass comes from the EU’s forests – and a majority of that from whole trees, tops and branches, according to the EU Joint Research Centre. Biomass from these feedstocks is bad for both climate and biodiversity and the EU has already seen an increase in its wood harvest.

Looking to the future, the EU has set itself a net emissions reduction target of 55% by 2030, relative to 2005 and the Commission expects the buildings sector to make the most rapid changes. Heating represents the vast majority of emissions from buildings, and so a mixture of energy efficiency improvements and clean heating technology will be needed.

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EurActiv, 22 Jun 2021: How the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive risks destroying Europe’s forests