Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty
By Michael Le Page
Countries in the EU, including the UK, are throwing away money by subsidising the burning of wood for energy, according to an independent report.
While burning some forms of wood waste can indeed reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in practice the growing use of wood energy in the EU is increasing rather than reducing emissions, the new report concludes.
Overall, burning wood for energy is much worse in climate terms than burning gas or even coal, but loopholes in the way emissions are counted are concealing the damage being done.
“It is not a great use of public money,” says Duncan Brack of the policy research institute Chatham House in London, who drew up the report. “It is providing unjustifiable incentives that have a negative impact on the climate.”
The money would be better spent on wind and solar power instead, he says.
It is widely assumed that burning wood does not cause global warming, that it is “carbon neutral”. But the report, which is freely available, details why this is not true.
Firstly, burning wood produces more carbon dioxide, methane and nitrogen dioxide per unit of energy produced than coal. When forests are logged, their soils also release carbon over the next decade or two. There are also emissions from the transport and processing of wood, which can be considerable.