Press release, November 7, 2018

An international coalition of more than 120 organisations from 40 countries today warns that the rapid global growth of the so-called bioeconomy poses a grave risk to the climate, nature, and human rights.

In addition to publishing an Open Letter, a petition is being launched today to coincide with the International Day of Action on Bioenergy which calls on governments around the world to support proven low carbon technologies, reduce overconsumption, and protect forests and other ecosystems.

In recent years, governments from countries such as Sweden, the UK, Brazil and South Korea have promoted burning forest biomass for energy as a substitute for fossil fuels. Yet a large and growing number of scientific studies show that burning biomass for energy emits no less carbon than burning coal, while also threatening biodiversity, and human rights.

Today, the industry and policymakers will gather in San Francisco for an event organised by the Biofuture Platform, an initiative supported by 20 countries and backed by organisations including the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The Biofuture Platform promotes products made out of bio-materials as well as the wider bioeconomy.

"The BioFuture Platform actively promotes bioenergy and biomass products, which incentivizes more forest destruction. In the Southern US, we are already facing the insatiable appetite of European demand for biomass thanks to well-intentioned policies that have had damaging results. The bioeconomy harms our precious forests, rural communities, and the climate. In the wake of the latest UN IPCC report, it's clear that forests are our best defense against climate change and we need to keep them standing," said Rita Frost, campaign manager of Dogwood Alliance, which works to protect the Southern forests of the US. 

"Over the past year, reports of an up to 60% decline in animal populations worldwide and an 80% decline in insect populations in several regions have made the headlines, with habitat loss remaining the number one cause of biodiversity loss. Yet the Biofuture Platform and numerous governments are promoting policies which will accelerate habitat loss in favour of vastly more crop and tree monocultures for energy and materials," said Almuth Ernsting, co-director of Biofuelwatch, which campaigns on the impacts of large-scale bioenergy and bio-based products. 

"Demand for biofuels, woodchips, pellets, and charcoal is a major driver of forest destruction and land-grabbing across the global South. Realising the plans of the Biofuture Platform would require tens or even hundreds of millions of hectares of new plantations at a devastating cost to forests, indigenous peoples, other forest dependent and traditional communities, and small farmers" said Mary Louise Malig, Campaigns Coordinator of the Global Forest Coalition, based in Bolivia.

“The bioeconomy poses a global threat. Instead of mitigating climate change, bioenergy risk increasing the carbon dioxide emissions at the same time as we continue to lose valuable forests. Natural forests need to be protected in order to safeguard the biodiversity and to prevent further emissons of greenhouse gases," said David van der Spoel, spokes person for the Swedish NGO Protect the Forest.  

The over 120 organisations call for an end to support for bioenergy and other short-lived bioproducts. In the era needing urgent action on climate change, the NGOs call for “meaningful and equitable responses to the climate crisis which respect human rights, focus on proven low-carbon technologies, reduce overconsumption and waste, and protect forests and other ecosystems.”

Read the NGO open letter here.

Sign the petition against BioFuture Platform as a private person here.

In January 2018, almost 800 scientists warned in an open letter that biofuels may emit more carbon than fossil fuels. 

References on the climate effects of biofuels

Booth, M. S. (2018). Not carbon neutral: Assessing the net emissions impact of residues burned for bioenergy. Environmental Research Letters 13 (3).

EASAC (2017). Multi-functionality and sustainability in the European Union’s forests. EASAC policy report 32.

Holtsmark, B. (2015). Quantifying the global warming potential of CO2 emissions from wood fuels. GCB Bioenergy 7(2), 195-206.

Ter-Mikaelian, M. T., Colombo, S. J. & Chen, J. (2015). The Burning Question: Does Forest Bioenergy Reduce Carbon Emissions? A Review of Common Misconceptions about Forest Carbon Accounting. Journal of Forestry 113 (1), 57-68.

Johnston, C. M. T. & van Kooten, G. C. (2015). Back to the past: Burning wood to save the globe. Ecological Economics 120, 185-193.

Hartmut, M. (2012). The Nonsense of Biofuels. Angewandte Chemie 51 (11): 2516-2518.

Contact

David van der Spoel, Skydda Skogen, +46 70-315 70 44, david.vanderspoel(@)skyddaskogen.se

Rita Frost, Dogwood Alliance, +1 512 4230620, rita(@)dogwoodalliance.org

Almuth Ernsting, Biofuelwatch, +44 131 6232600, biofuelwatch(@)gmail.com

Katja Garson, Fern, +32 2 8944694, katja(@)fern.org 

Mary Louise Malig, Global Forest Coalition, +591 6 100-2627