Mashable•February 24, 2017
nations, including the UK, are making a grave accounting error that will result in the emissions of more planet-warming greenhouse gases, according to a new report from an independent London think tank.
By counting the burning of wood pellets from felled forests in the U.S., Canada and Russia as a “renewable” or “sustainable” form of energy, nations in the European Union are masking their full impact on the environment, the report warns.
The study, from Chatham House, comes as European officials debate policies that favor particular energy sources, including biomass energy such as wood pellets, as a way to cut planet-warming carbon dioxide.
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The report warns that contrary to what many policy makers have been saying, bioenergy involves about as much carbon emissions as coal. In fact, if wood is burned to make steam for electricity, this practice may be 50 percent more carbon intensive than coal per unit of electricity produced.
Bioenergy policy may seem like an issue buried in the weeds (so to speak) of climate policy, but scientists say the future severity of global warming is at stake in determining the European Union’s (EU) policies toward biomass burning.
If the wrong policies remain in place, the EU may inadvertently torpedo the globe’s chances to live up to the commitments made under the Paris Climate Agreement.
“The Paris temperature goal is in peril because of the way we’re dealing with bioenergy,” William Moomaw, a professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, said in an interview.
The EU is the world’s biggest user of biomass for electricity generation, with its use growing quickly.
With the Trump administration wavering on its support for the climate pact, the policies adopted by other nations and groups of countries have taken on an increased importance.
According to the report, emissions from the burning of wood pellets are never truly accounted for, either at the point of combustion or when trees are cut down to make the pellets.