NGOs from all over the world protest together today on the International Day of Action on Big Biomass. #BigBadBiomass

On 19th October 2023 groups from many countries on 6 continents are taking a stand against large-scale forest biomass burning to produce energy, a false climate solution. The international day of action is taking place one month before COP 28 in Dubai, during which the Global Renewable Energy Target will be discussed. A global renewable energy target must not include forest biomass, a highly emissive and destructive energy source – say co-organizers of the Day of Action.

Tokyo / Hobart / Kuala Lumpur / Jakarta / Berlin / Brussels / London / Helsinki / Johannesburg / Cayenne / Washington / Vancouver and more, 19th October 2023 – Leading up to COP28 in Dubai, a network of more than 200 Non-Government Organisations worldwide will take action today – on the International Day of Action on Biomass – to highlight the negative environmental and social  impacts of large scale biomass energy. Burning forest biomass is a false solution to climate change. It emits at least as much CO2 as burning coal per unit of energy produced, additionally contributing to deforestation and violation of local communities rights all over the world.

In December, governments will meet in Dubai to discuss the  global Renewable Energy Target. Such a target is a necessary complement to phasing out fossil fuels, but energy generated by combustion of forest biomass must not be a component because of the large immediate carbon emissions related to this energy source. Burning forest biomass for energy is frequently dubbed a fake renewable because it is neither low in emissions nor clean.

Failure to count the carbon emissions at the smokestack because of the UNFCCC’s broken carbon accounting systemhas led to the erroneous claim that burning bioenergy produces zero emissions or is carbon neutral, a dangerous fallacy which in turn has resulted in the development of policies which encourage biomass burning. The UN must also recognise that co-firing – that is, throwing wood into a coal fired power station furnace along with the coal – is not a credible form of emissions abatement. It extends the life of coal power and fails to decrease smokestack carbon emissions.

The proliferation of biomass energy around the world has come at a high social and environmental cost. To highlight this, a wave of online and offline actions and events, organised by the Biomass Working Group of the Environmental Paper Network (EPN), will travel around the world today – starting in Australia and moving to Asia, Africa and Europe, then on to the Americas. You can follow the wave of events and activities on our social media accounts (X, IG, FB) #BigBadBiomass. The program of the day can be found below and here.

The Biomass Working Group has more than 200 member groups in nearly 60 countries. The basis for our work is The Biomass Delusion, a position statement which articulates that burning forest biomass for energy is exacerbating the climate crisis.

Peg Putt, Coordinator of Policy and Campaigns for the Forests, Climate and Biomass Energy working group “Widespread concern about this fake “renewable” should be heeded by the UN climate conference when working towards a global Renewable Energy Target. It would be disastrous if a massive increase in biomass burning was promoted when the UNFCCC can and should fix the root cause of the problem – the notoriously flawed accounting rules that enable a false impression of carbon neutrality to be perpetrated. On the basis of this false claim, many countries have indulged in burning forests for energy at a time when we should be protecting  them to keep carbon out of the atmosphere and biodiversity safe.

“Inflicting damage on natural forests, accelerating land grabbing and monoculture plantation expansion, exposing disadvantaged communities to pollution, all whilst accelerating climate change, are some of the impacts being highlighted in today’s wave of action on big biomass.”

Souparna Lahiri of the Global Forest Coalition and coordinator of the Asia-Pacific Regional Biomass Working Group “Today we have sent a letter to the Asian Development Bank demanding divestment  from financing burning of woody biomass and bioenergy, outlining that a coal exit policy is desirable but must not entail support of the false solution of wood bioenergy. We stress that co-firing coal power generation with biomass entrenches the use of coal rather than hastening a phase out, contradicting the policy direction. Biomass and biofuels sourced at volume from large scale plantations and natural forests is problematic for both climate and biodiversity as well as for Indigenous Peoples, women, and local communities and must not form part of the ABD’s energy policy principle.”

Meenakshi Raman, the president of Sahabat Alam (Friend of the Earth) Malaysia “It is the ‘global boiling’ era now, and we need full focus on real solutions as well as a just energy transition to address climate change. Burning the forest for large-scale energy production is a false solution for climate change, as it actually immediately emits huge amounts of greenhouse gasses. Forests’ protection is crucial in tackling climate change and contribute to a clean, healthy, just and sustainable future for all life on earth.”

Jana Ballenthien, Forest Campaigner of ROBIN WOOD in Germany “The many proposals to convert coal plants to burning wood instead of shutting them down, and the building of new wood power plants must be stopped! Wood-burning plants already in operation need to be shut down. Today, we’re on the street at various sites of planned and existing biomass plants. We are calling on the German government to make wise choices at the national level. We and the planet need a socially just, climate- and environment-friendly energy transition which doesn’t rely on burning.”

Katy Brown, biomass campaigner of Biofuelwatch UK “In the UK we’re home to the biggest tree burner in the world, Drax, which receives billions in subsidies to burn trees and harm forests and communities around the world. Drax is now aggressively lobbying the government for more money to fund bioenergy with carbon capture, a false solution that’s never been proven to work at scale. This both risks perpetuating the harmful international impacts of the biomass industry and diverts attention from genuine climate solutions. Drax wants to lock us into dirty tree burning energy for decades to come – we say no, enough is enough, subsidies for burning trees in power stations must stop.”

Adam Collette of Dogwood Alliance in the US “As the world’s largest producer of wood pellet biomass for markets in Europe and Asia, the forests and communities of the Southern US have experienced devastating impacts from big biomass. In the past ten years, over 2 million acres of our forests have been clear-cut, pelletized, exported, and burned in power stations overseas. Our communities have been polluted and are increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Today, on the International Day of Action against big biomass, we urge the Biden Administration for immediate action to stop the biomass expansion in the United States and join the global anti-biomass movement in a united call to protect forests and stop big biomass.”

Richard Robertson, forest campaigner of Stand.Earth in Canada “There is clear evidence that whole trees from primary and old growth forests in British Columbia, Canada are logged and used to produce wood pellets that emit carbon when burned and destroy forest ecosystems,” said Richard Robertson, Forest Campaigner at environmental advocacy organization “It’s time for the Canadian government to urgently end its support of the forest biomass industry. After an unprecedented, devastating wildfire season in Canada, it’s essential that we protect forests and name biomass for what it is – a false climate solution.”

Read full press release here