We envision an energy system that relies on wind and solar and that moves away from burning, including burning biological material like wood and agricultural products (bioenergy). Bioenergy, in its various forms (biofuels, biomass, biogas and biomethane) is sometimes perceived as an alternative to fossil fuel, but when produced at scale from primary material has important negative consequences for land.
Why biomass is a false solution
- There is alarming evidence of a 69% increase in biomass loss from European forests for the period of 2016–2018 relative to 2011–2015.
- Most industrial-scale bioenergy has comparable or higher emissions than fossil energy when measured across the short window of time in which we must act on climate change. According to the IPCC, burning wood from forests results in 18% more CO2 as well as more methane and nitrous oxide being released into the atmosphere per KWh of energy generated even than coal.
- A 2021 supplementary analysis by Forest Research found very serious risks in increasing bioenergy use in the EU – and that “backing away” from bioenergy provided the greatest GHG reductions.
- Most forms of bioenergy from forests are harmful to biodiversity and soil carbon storage, according to the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre.
The ECF looks at bioenergy not just from a climate perspective, but also through a broader land use and sustainability lens. Some sectors that are hard to decarbonise might need to rely on bioenergy in an economy compatible with the Paris Agreement; for those, a small amount of bioenergy needs to be secured. Yet all the other sectors that have alternatives for decarbonization, such as electrification through wind and solar, have to move away from burning. The bioenergy that is still needed to provide the last fraction of decarbonisation must be targeted specifically for these sectors, used in the most efficient way, and produced sustainably and without depleting our carbon sinks or putting pressure on other planetary boundaries.
How we work
Through our activities, we aim to protect and ensure that land keeps its primary function of producing food, supporting livelihoods, preserving biodiversity, and storing carbon. We support a range of organisations that deliver expertise on bioenergy and forests at the international, EU and national levels.