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Raising awareness of the negative impacts of industrial biofuels and bioenergy
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Call on your General Election candidates to end Drax and Lynemouth power stations’ tree burning.

Mon, 06/10/2024 - 06:34

The General Election on 4th July 2024 is a crucial moment to call on parliamentary candidates to end subsidies for Drax, the UK’s largest carbon emitter and largest tree burner. Burning wood in power stations increases global warming for decades to centuries, with Drax emitting over 11 million tonnes of CO2 last year. The UK Government has announced proposals to use energy bills to fund tree burning at power stations like Drax in Yorkshire and Lynemouth in Northumberland. If granted, these subsidies would not lower energy bills but allow Drax to continue burning trees at taxpayers’ expense, costing up to £2.5 billion a year.

For the sake of our planet, we need as many people as possible to speak out and tell their parliamentary candidates to support an end to Drax’s tree burning, environmental injustice, harm to wildlife and climate-wrecking emissions.

Please write to your General Election candidates asking them to pledge to support an end to subsidies for burning trees in UK power stations. You can use the form below or click the button to go to our action network page.

If you are thinking of going to or organising a hustings we have written a guide for you here. We also have a candidate briefing fo you to share here and a election pledge for you candidates to sign here.

Join the movement by clicking the link to urge your General Election candidates to end Drax & Lynemouth power stations’ tree burning. Together, we can make a difference. #GE2024 #StopBurningTrees…
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Click here to go to our action network page.

Categories: G1. Progressive Green

General Election Candidate Briefing

Wed, 06/05/2024 - 13:51

Candidate briefing ahead of the UK 2024 General Election

General Election Candidate Briefing

Categories: G1. Progressive Green

Biochar: A critical perspective

Thu, 05/16/2024 - 07:06
New Biofuelwatch briefing, May 2024: What does the science tell us about whether biochar reliably stores carbon and boosts soil fertility? Click here to download the fully referenced briefing

Introduction:

In 2011, Biofuelwatch published a comprehensive report, “Biochar: a critical review of science and policy”. In 2020, we provided an update to that report. Given the proliferation of initiatives to develop commercial-scale biochar and burgeoning policy and financial support, we feel compelled to provide this more recent update.

The published literature has dramatically expanded, reflecting great interest and an influx of funding to soil science research. Additionally, there has in recent years been a widening of the scope of proclaimed ‘uses’ for biochar – no longer just for carbon  sequestration or soil and crop improvement, but also for remediation of toxins, as a feed supplement for livestock to reduce methane emissions, for treatment of
waste water and more.

The overarching problem remain as results from biochar studies continue to be highly inconsistent, depending on what feedstock is used, how it is produced, the type of soil to which it is applied, the environmental conditions, what crop is grown, the study duration, and what kinds of measurements are made. Understanding of biochar is far from what would be required to enable reliable control over its influence on the environment. Given the risks discussed further below, it is highly premature to
promote biochar as deserving subsidies and other incentives.

Yet those policy support measures for biochar as a ‘carbon negative technology’ are being put in place. We are not alone in urging precaution, many in the scientific research community express similar reservations. For example: in “Rethinking biochar: black gold or not?” (Tan et al 2023) the authors conclude: “To date there is no conclusive evidence demonstrating environmental friendliness or long-term cost effectiveness of large scale biochar implementation in soil and climate agro-economic systems, let alone in water purification and energy storage and conversion.”

Xiang et al (2021) warn: “Considering the harmful components, structure and particle size of biochar, the negative effects of biochar application on the environment should not be ignored.

Categories: G1. Progressive Green

European nature convention bureau criticises Swiss government for ignoring complaint about damage to protected nature site

Tue, 05/14/2024 - 05:13
European Nature Convention Bureau criticises Swiss government for ignoring complaint about serious damage to protected nature site

14th May 2024 – The Bureau of the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats has expressed its disappointment that the Swiss government has failed to respond to a complaint about destructive logging inside a protected nature site which Biofuelwatch had submitted in July 2023.

Biofuelwatch’s complaint followed lengthy investigations by a Swiss volunteer member into logging activities and their impacts on wildlife in the Belpau Emerald Network site, Canton Bern. Emerald Network sites are strictly protected under the Bern Convention. Contrary to Bern Convention requirements, no management plan for the site could be found and the federal government had replied to a first-stage complaint that all responsibility for the site lay with the Canton. The Bern Convention Bureau strongly disagrees with this view, saying in its (interim) decision: “the fact that the management of the Emerald Network site was transferred to the Canton is…not a satisfactory argument”.

Lucie Wüthrich, who undertook the research that led to Biofuelwatch’s complaint says: “The Belpau Emerald Network site contains important aquatic and forest habitats, which are being degraded by intensive logging, much of it for biomass energy. These habitats are home to 56 protected species which are highly vulnerable to the scale and nature of the logging activities. Sadly, the logging has continued unabated since we submitted our complaint.”

Almuth Ernsting, Co-Director of Biofuelwatch, adds: “When we submitted the complaint, we did not expect for a moment that it would simply be ignored by the Swiss government, contrary to their obligations under the Bern Convention. This is a convention that has been ratified by every European country other than Russia. Will they finally respond and act after being criticised by the Bern Convention Bureau? We can only hope so, for the sake of the many animal and plant species at serious risk in the Belpau alone.

Claudia Zenhäusern, Founder of health-and-forest.org says: “In our opinion, the federal government, some cantons and the forestry sector are interpreting the Forest Act in favour of their particular interests and are disregarding binding guidelines for protected areas and protection forests. Misinformation, for example about climate-friendly forest development, legitimises large-scale clear-cutting. The facts that three quarters of the deciduous trees cut down are burned and that this releases no less CO2 and pollutants than burning fossil fuels is concealed – with devastating consequences for people and nature.

Biologist and Founder of the environmental organisation ppp-movement, Christine Bürki, adds: “I find it shocking how the federal government and the cantons are allowing the destruction of forest ecosystems, which are already fragile after decades of bad management. This is happening under the pretence that intensive logging is making forests “climate-resilient”. The regional forest management plans, for example by the Canton of Bern, no longer respect the ecosystem functions of forests, but instead focus exclusively on benefits to humans, including wood production. Numerous habitats are being lost.”

Links to the complaint and to the Bern Convention Bureau’s interim decision:

https://rm.coe.int/files34e-2023-switzerland-logging-belpau-emerald-network/1680ac6519

https://rm.coe.int/tpvs01e-2024-bureau-meeting-18-19-march-2024-final-2774-3352-5513-1/1680af5dff

Categories: G1. Progressive Green

Environmental Justice campaigners hand petition against criminal persecution of Croatian forest defender to Embassy

Thu, 05/09/2024 - 07:47

Photo: Peter Dean

London, 9th May 2024 Today at 12 noon, environmental justice campaigners from Biofuelwatch and other groups are handing over a petition signed by around 1,400 individuals, [1] accompanied, by an open letter by international NGOs [2] to the Croatian embassy in London, demanding an end to a criminal persecution of a high-profile forest defender.

Vesna Grgić, head of the environmental NGO Green Squad and president of the veterans’ association VIDRA, has been charged with three counts of “criminal offences against the honour and reputation” of the state-owned forest management company, headed by a Croatian government minister. In February this year, a UN Special Rapporteur on environmental defenders wrote to the Croatian authorities, warning that “based on the information provided, the criminal lawsuits brought against Ms. Grgić exhibit the characteristics of strategic lawsuits against publicparticipation (SLAPPs) aimed at silencing Ms. Grgić to prevent her from continuing her activities to protect Croatian forests.” [3] Green Squad is unaware of any response by their country’s government.

Peter Dean from Biofuelwatch states: “Today, at the Croatian Embassy, we expressed our and many other organisations’ and individuals’ solidarity with environmental defender Vesna Grgić who is being persecuted for documenting the destruction of highly biodiverse forests in Croatia, including in nature reserve, as well as financial irregularities on the part of the state forest company, which controls the large majority of the country’s forests. Those lawsuits must be dropped asap.”

Notes:

[1] actionnetwork.org/petitions/croatian-state-company-must-drop-slapp-suit-against-forest-defender/

[2] docs.google.com/document/d/1pkztFGoTp5s__yHjBfdsPSaeMSUfp2RPr7OHPn58RlI/edit

[3] unece.org/sites/default/files/2024-04/ACSRC_2023_15_Croatia_to_HE_MFA_from_SR_Env_Defenders_complaint_14.02.2024.pdf

Categories: G1. Progressive Green

Open Letter to Vattenfall, 2024

Mon, 04/29/2024 - 03:50
Joint open letter to Ms Anna Borg,  Vattenfall CEO by Fridays for Future Sweden, Skydda Skogen (Sweden), ROBIN WOOD (Germany), Comité Schone Lucht (Netherlands) and Biofuelwatch

CC to Mr Martijn Hagens (CEO Vattenfall Netherlands), Mr Alexander Van Ofwegen (Head of Business Area Customers & Solutions and Heat / CFO Vattenfall NV), Ms Tanja Wielgoss (Chairwoman of the Board Vattenfall Wärme Berlin AG)

Dear Ms Borg,

We are writing to you on behalf of environmental organisations and youth-movements expressing our explicit objections about Vattenfall’s ongoing reliance on generating energy from burning carbon in general, and your company’s expanding use of wood bioenergy in particular, which is incompatible with the Paris Agreement.

The Swedish state-owned company Vattenfall is doing far too little, way too late when it comes to its energy policy. Vattenfall’s continued promise to be “fossil-free within a generation” is a textbook example of greenwashing. It has been known for decades  that Vattenfall urgently needs to phase out polluting fuels. The term ‘fossil-free’ is simply meaningless when it does not reduce emissions. Vattenfall continues to burn significant amounts of fossil fuels, mostly fossil gas, while climate breakdown continues to escalate. It continues to invest in burning more wood, which emits no less CO2 than burning coal. The IPCC makes clear that we have years, and not decades, to  drastically reduce the greenhouse gas emissions concentration in the atmosphere if we want to prevent potentially irreversible harm to the climate system.

For the past five years we, environmental organisations from Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, the US and Finland, have urged Vattenfall during its annual shareholders’ meeting, to cancel its plans to build new biomass power plants, to stop importing and trading in wood pellets and wood chips and to switch to cleaner truly renewable energy such as wind and solar. We have also urged Vattenfall to shift its money and focus towards energy efficiency.

Vattenfall has ignored these calls and has instead decided to further develop its  prevailing obviously flawed energy strategy while spending taxpayers money on greenwashing as well as fighting the Dutch NGO, Clean Air Committee (Comité Schone Lucht), in court.The Clean Air Committee has appealed against the unlawfully awarded subsidies of 400 million that Vattenfall wants to keep at all costs in order to push through the plans for a mega biomass power plant in Diemen (at the foot of Amsterdam).

Since its last AGM, Vattenfall has started to build its second biggest biomass plant in Sweden to-date, and it has submitted a scoping application for a large, 90 MW new biomass plant in Berlin, despite having agreed the sale of its heat assets to the city. As a parting from the city, Vattenfall thus appears keen to lock Berlin into a high-carbon, unsustainable energy future, despite the proven potential for genuinely climate friendly heat generation there. Meantime, the company continues to rely on millions of euros in government subsidies.

The science is clear: society urgently needs to reduce all greenhouse gas emissions, including from burning forest biomass, while simultaneously and rapidly scaling up forest protection and restoration. Burning forest biomass is thus counterproductive on two accounts as it both increases emissions and reduces forest carbon stocks. But Vattenfall actively chooses to not implement the urgently needed energy-transition that the climate crisis demands from societies in general, and from state-owned companies in particular. Instead, the company continues to invest in biomass plants, harming the climate and human health.

Vattenfall’s biomass energy and heating plants are located in three countries: Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands. Since 2019, Vattenfall has been consistently speaking about ‘sustainable biomass’, yet 72% all the wood burned in these plants comes from Sweden, where the forestry practices are among the worst in the world. Its forest industry is heavily dominated by the demand for large quantities of cheap wood, especially for biomass energy and pulp and paper. More than 97 percent of logging involves clear-cutting, even in old-growth forests. When these forests are cut down, enormous amounts of greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere. The clearcut forest land is thereafter converted to monoculture tree plantations; which harm climate and environment.

The days of expansion, clear-cutting and replanting trees are over. Yet Vattenfall continuesto pay the logging companies to continue with their ‘business as usual’: expanding into the last remaining healthy forests and clearcutting entire ecosystems in favour of replanting tree monocultures. In other words, we are not losing branches and treetops due to the continued expansion that Vattenfall pays for; we lose pristine, irreplaceable ecosystems, every day. And even if new trees eventually regrow and store this carbon in the future, this would take far too long to help avoid the very worst impacts of climate change.

It is often reiterated that its mostly “forest-residuals” that is burned but it is important to note that it is the Swedish forestry companies themselves that classify which parts – of the several centuries old and irreplaceable forest ecosystems that have been cut down – that they want to classify as ‘forest residues’. Their “residues” classification includes whole trees, deadwood that takes hundreds of years for nature to form, and even more or less all deciduous trees. And it is these so-called ‘residuals’ that Vattenfall wants to increase for the combustion of biomass.

Against this background we have the following questions for Vattenfall:

● How long does it take for nature to regenerate a branch that was part of an, for example, 130 year old tree? And how does that compare to the very limited time at hand in which we drastically need to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions concentration in the atmosphere if we want to prevent potentially irreversible harm to the world’s population and the planet?
● How long does it take for nature to restore the carbon stock that is lost when a continuity forest is logged via the FSC certified regeneration-forestry model? In other words, how big is the carbon debt inherited in the so-called “residual biomass” you buy from the current FSC-certified forestry?
● Why does Vattenfall only aim to be fossil-free, and not to reduce greenhouse gases emissions? And why only within a whole generation? In other words, why rely on the climate-damaging burning of forest biomass while you choose to phase out fossil fuels way too slowly? Given the rapid escalation of the climate crisis and the growing evidence that irreversible climate tipping points may be close, how can state-owned company Vattenfall proudly claim that it is enough to become fossil-free as late as within an entire generation?
● Why did you decide to spend money on greenwashing campaigns instead of initiating the much-needed energy transition that the climate crisis demands from us?
● Even the forestry sector itself states that bioenergy and clear-cutting will increase emissions in the coming decades. Why does Vattenfall still claim that bioenergy from forest wood is a climate solution? The European Commission’s Joint Research Committee (JRC), the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC), the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) and the IPCC clearly state that emissions must be significantly reduced this decade.
● When can you give us a guarantee that you have stopped doing business with forestry companies/subcontractors that establish and maintain climate and environmentally harmful FSC-certified monoculture tree plantations?
● When can you give us a guarantee that you have stopped doing business with forestry companies/subcontractors that cut down continuity forests in Sweden, and old-growth forest in the Baltics?
● Will you finally withdraw your strongly opposed proposal for a new biomass plant in Diemen, since the highest court (Council of State) in the Netherlands annulled the environmental permit and thus the eligibility conditions for 400 million government subsidy have lapsed?
● Why are you pushing ahead with an application for a new biomass plant in Berlin, when low-carbon alternatives are available, and when you already have agreed to sell its assets to the city?

Lastly, there is no doubt that we must immediately end all fossil fuel combustion – this is one of our core demands for Vattenfall. But we cannot replace them with other, even more polluting and nature-destroying fuels with even higher emissions, such as woody biomass.

Agnes Hjortsberg, Fridays For Future Sweden
Lina Burnelius, Skydda Skogen, Sweden
Almuth Ernsting, Biofuelwatch, UK
Fenna Swart , Comité Schone Lucht, Netherlands
Jana Ballenthien, ROBIN WOOD, Germany

Categories: G1. Progressive Green

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