This is a translation of an article published as a reply to Vattenfall in Swedish daily paper Aftonbladet on April 28.
Of course, fossil fuels must be phased out immediately – that is a part of our demands to Vattenfall. It is wrong and distasteful of Vattenfall to suggest otherwise.
However, the science and the situation we face are crystal clear. Vattenfall is stuck in a fantasy world if they think that the issue is about whether to burn fossil or biogenic fuels. That is precisely why we are demanding a shift from you – based on scientific evidence – away from burning fuels in favour of truly renewable energy such as wind, solar and geothermal energy. Vattenfall must also invest heavily in energy conservation and energy efficiency.
Of course, we welcome Vattenfall’s investments in offshore wind, for example, but unfortunately, individual successes are overshadowed by the many investments Vattenfall has made that have the direct opposite effect on the climate, such as the bio-based heating plant in Uppsala. A growing number of scientists sound the alarm: over 190 scientists call on the EU to start basing its policies on science and not to promote short-lived wood products or biofuels. In an open letter, nearly 800 scientists warn that forest-based biofuels could produce higher carbon emissions than fossil fuels for decades or centuries. Remarkably, Vattenfall ignores scientific facts and impact assessments.
Even if Vattenfall was to burn only so called “residues”, that biomass comes from Sweden’s unsustainable forestry, the result of often certified, but climate-damaging and ecologically harmful logging practices. Clearfelling, which is the dominant forestry method in Sweden, releases large amounts of greenhouse gases from the soil into the atmosphere. Even more carbon dioxide is released when the soil is scarified and prepared for planting even-aged production stands of spruce or pine. It then takes several decades for the environmentally damaging replanted monoculture of trees to compensate for the emissions. Time we do not have. It is this daily ecosystem loss and climate-damaging process that you refer to as “new trees that are then planted”.
Why does the state-owned Vattenfall have a goal of being only fossil-free – not greenhouse gas-free – and this only within a whole generation? Why do you rely on climate-damaging burning of forest biomass? While choosing to phase out fossil fuels far too slow? At current emission rates, according to the IPCC, the carbon budget that gives us a reasonable chance of staying below 1.5°C warming will run out before the end of this decade. How can a state-owned company proudly claim that going fossil-free within a generation is enough?
Almuth Ernsting, Biofuelwatch, UK
Anton Foley, Fridays For Future Sweden
Fenna Swart, Comite Schone Lucht, Netherlands
Lina Burnelius, Skydda Skogen/Protect the Forest Sweden