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EU bioenergy policies increase carbon emissions

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Wednesday, 24 October 2012

EU bioenergy policies increase carbon emissions

Bioenergy made up over two thirds of the EU’s primary renewable energy production in 2009, according to Eurostat, and will account for more than half of EU states emissions reductions planned for 2020, according to their National Renewable Energy Action Plans. But a literature review conducted by the EU’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) concludes that, according to best known science, “the use of roundwood [trees] from forests for bioenergy purposes would cause an actual increase in GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions compared to fossil fuels in the short term”.   
This is because burning a tree to produce bioenergy - in the form of wood pellets or chips – releases all the carbon that the tree has absorbed in its lifetime. It also reduces the carbon sink able to absorb new carbon, at least until it has been replenished by an equivalent carbon absorbing stock. In the interim, a ‘carbon debt’ is created, with more emissions being created than are reduced by bioenergy use.
The EU report duly finds that “with a proper accounting, roundwood bioenergy would not contribute to short term policy objectives such as the EU 2020 targets, although the use of wastes and residues could make a sizeable contribution”. Such conclusions echo a paper by the European Environment Agency last year, and raise questions as to whether unaccounted bioenergy should continue to count towards EU renewable targets.

Source: EurActiv