Press Release - Friends of the Irish Environment -4th Mar 2019
FOREST BIOMASS CHALLENGE TO CO-FIRED PEAT PLANTS
The inclusion of forest biomass as a renewable fuel fatally undermines the goals of the new European Renewable Energy Directive [RED II], according to Plaintiffs from six different countries in an action filed today in the European General Court in Luxembourg. Each has suffered, in diverse and particular ways, from the consequences of the Directive’s biomass energy policy.
Tony Lowes of Ireland’s environmental NGO Friends of the Irish Environment [FIE] is one of the Plaintiffs in the legal challenge, citing the co-firing with biomass of Ireland’s peat powered electric plants.
The lawsuit seeks to remove forest biomass from the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive recently approved by the European Union. The Directive raises the overall EU target for Renewable Energy Sources (RES) consumption by 2030 from 20% to 32%.
However, the Plaintiffs contend that RED II ‘ignores the science on forest bioenergy and promotes false climate solutions’. According to Dr. Mary S. Booth, director of the USA Partnership for Policy Integrity and lead science advisor on the case, ‘Burning wood for energy emit more CO2 per unit of energy generated than coal but RED II counts these emissions as zero. RED II also fails to properly account for the lifecycle carbon emissions from harvesting, producing, transporting, and burning woody biomass fuels, including the loss of carbon sequestration potential after the vast increase in industrial logging destroys the very forest systems that have until now absorbed carbon from the atmosphere.’
‘Ireland’s cofiring of peat powered plants with biomass is an example of a “false climate solution,’” said Ireland’s Mr. Lowes. He cites the Irish Climate Change Advisory Council’s 2018 Report’s conclusion that ‘The bio-mass subsidy for peat power plants is an environmentally harmful subsidy resulting in substantially higher emissions of greenhouse gases at significant direct cost to the nation.
‘According to the EPA ‘Ireland’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Projections 2017-2035’, this demand is increasing the price of biomass, resulting in “energy demand in heating being met by more fossil fuels because of the biomass subsidy of peat powered plants”.’
Mr. Lowes’ points out that ‘the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland’s forecast that the annual supply gap in wood production for biomass could be up to 1.88 million cubic metres by 2020 and more than twice that by 2025 – all of which must be sourced outside Ireland.
The case is coordinated by the US-based Partnership for Policy Integrity and testimonials from experts and organisations include Program Director Adam Colette of the Dogwood Alliance.
The Dogwood Alliance was one of more than 30 conservation and environmental justice organizations in the Southern United States who wrote in August 2018 to the Irish government, the Electricity Supply Board [ESB] and Bord na Móna pointing out that the wood pellets the company plans to import come from their region, the North Atlantic Coastal Plain. They say their coastal hardwood forests are at the heart of the world’s 36th biodiversity hotspot and are being felled with no legal obligation to replant. ‘The forests in the region need to, instead, be left standing to protect communities, fight climate change, and provide habitat for plants and animals’, the groups argue.
Wood pellets from forests and pine plantations in the Southern US are the most likely biomass source for any industrial scale co-firing and future power station conversions in Ireland, according to Bord na Mona’s 2016 Annual Report.
Aside from a US landowner impacted by clearcutting of the once biologically-rich bottomland hardwood forests in North Caroline, plaintiffs come from Estonia, the world’s third-largest wood pellet producer; Romania, especially in the Carpathian Mountains where logging is felling some of the last remaining primeval forests; Slovakia – where logging is taking place in protected national parks, reserves, and even a UNESCO World Heritage Site; and a resident whose health is being harmed by emissions from cofiring a coal plant with biomass in Gardonne, France.
If the Court agrees to hear the case, it would be the first time that an NGO will have been granted standing before the court to challenge an EU law or regulation. Thus the case in itself is precedent-setting. The case will be posted online as soon as it is filed.
CASE WEBSITE www.eubiomasscase.org
Telebriefing March 4 11am Irish Time: http://www.pfpi.net/media-briefings-for-eu-biomass-case
Partnership for Policy Integrity www.pfpi.net
EU Contact: MARK OLDEN. MARK@FERN.ORG +44 797 388 4718
Ireland: Tony Lowes 353 (0)27 74771 / 353 (0)87 2176316
Daithí Ó hÉalaithe (Irish language) +353 (0)87 6178852
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