New report: Carbon impacts of biomass consumed in the EU

The report was commissioned from Forest Research by the European Climate Foundation (ECF) to clarify the findings of a project undertaken by Forest Research for the European Commission (DG ENER), known as Carbon Impacts of Biomass Consumed in the EU, and referred to as the “Bioimpact Project”.

The ECF asked Forest Research (FR) to use the insights gained from the Bioimpact Project to deliver, amongst other things, a Statement of Risk of EU Bioenergy Policy. FR concluded that “unless appropriate policy measures are taken to support sustainable bioenergy supply (in terms of impacts on GHG emissions), particularly in the case of forest bioenergy supply, a significant increase in bioenergy use in the EU is likely to lead to a net increase, rather than decrease, in GHG emissions being contributed from bioenergy sources.

Whilst such a conclusion is reasonable based on the project findings, it should be clarified that, strictly, the results should not be interpreted to imply that the increased use of bioenergy in the EU must inevitably involve increased GHG emissions. Rather, the results strongly indicate that there are significant risks of increases in GHG emissions associated with greater bioenergy use, in particular forest bioenergy use, unless there are appropriate checks and balances on the supply and consumption of bioenergy sources with regard to associated GHG emissions.  The researchers developed a list of 15 detailed sustainability criteria that, together, can ensure bioenergy reduces GHG emissions. Mapped against the RED II, as originally proposed by the COM in 2016, FR found that the RED II makes no specific provisions for 9 out of the 15 recommended criteria. For 3 of the 15 recommended criteria the RED II might be expected to deliver some indirect, but non-specific, support. In 3 of the 13 recommended criteria, the RED will deliver a direct policy signal.

It is important that those countries seeking to implement the RED II are aware of the status and relevance of the sustainability criteria within the RED II. If EU bioenergy policy is to meet its stated goal of reducing GHGs, these criteria will need to be strengthened on national and EU level.

Download the report here