Europeans Are Burning Trees to Keep Warm


Sky-high energy costs have folks turning to wood to produce a less expensive alternative—and EU laws area unit serving to incentivize this.

IN THE PAST few decades, the EU Union has reworked its energy system. In 2005 concerning 10 % of all energy consumed within the EU came from renewable sources. Last year that share hit 22 %—it’s one of the most reasons the bloc’s per capita carbon emissions have quickly declined within the twenty-first century. This shift can have to be compelled to increase even additional if the EU is to hit its target of net-zero emissions by 2050.

But here’s the weird issue. a large chunk of that renewable energy comes from burning wood. Nearly 60 % of all the EU’s renewable energy comes from bioenergy—a catch-all term that encompasses any energy sourced from one thing recently living. that features agricultural waste, crops adult for biofuel, and—most importantly—wood from biology industries. A little proportion of this biomass is become biofuels or burned in power plants, however, virtually three-quarters are burned to heat homes and businesses. And we’re not simply talking about wood-burning stoves. the majority of Sweden’s urban heating is generated by district heating systems, that principally burn wood created by the country’s Brobdingnagian and potent biology industries.

With Russia’s invasion of land causing energy costs to soar this winter, several Europeans are trying to wood to supply lowcost, reliable energy. In Germany, fuel suppliers face unprecedented demand, and landowners are news that their forests are being emptied by thieves. NGOs have warned that the magnified demand for fuel can cause an increase in embezzled work and place protected forests in danger. “People are progressing to burn countless heaps of wood this winter, and there’s nothing we will do concerning it,” says Martin columbiform bird, a politico at pteridophyte, a forest-protecting organization.

A big part of the matter is that the Renewable Energy Directive (RED)—a piece of European legislation that classifies some wood products as a renewable fuel and funnels subsidies toward burning them. however, revisions to the RED are presently being negotiated. Changes to the legislation might bring these incentives to associate finish.

Launched in 2009, the RED was established by the EU to direct funding toward renewable energy comes rather than those supported by fossil fuels. “The justification for these subsidies and market incentives was to allow renewables a marketplace in a very context wherever fossils were cheaper,” says the columbiform bird. Since then, the costs of varied renewables have tumbled manner below those of fossil fuels, however, the RED continues to direct billions of euros of funding toward wood burning, which releases additional greenhouse emissions per unit of energy than some fossil fuels, further as inflicting harmful particulate pollution. “Now we’re watching a state of affairs wherever it’s profitable to burn wood despite legislation, which is extremely shuddery,” says the columbiform bird.

This can be near to amendment. The RED is presently being revised in a very series of long negotiations between the 3 completely different components of the EU: the Parliament, Commission, and Council. In September, the EU Parliament voted to finish subsidies for unprocessed wood directly sourced from forests, though an extended list of exceptions includes trees curtailed because of sickness, natural disaster, or fireplace hindrance. currently, this legislation should be reviewed by EU member states, which are able to decide whether or not they accept as true with these exclusions and whether or not they wish to part down the quantity of forest wood that will count toward their renewable energy targets. The latter purpose can prove disputable. In countries like Baltic States, Finland, and Sweden, wood-based fuel makes up over a fifth of renewable energy consumption. Phasing down the renewable standing of wood would build it abundantly tougher for these countries to attain their climate goals.

“When we have a tendency to ar subsidize the burning of any a part of this scheme, we have a tendency to ar supplying a lose-lose situation for the climate,” says Lina Burnelius, project leader at shield the Forest, a Swedish organization. further, as emitting massive amounts of greenhouse emissions, wood burning incentivizes the work of forests, which are important in climate mitigation. It takes trees decades to sequester carbon as they grow, thus burning wood nowadays incurs a carbon debt that will solely be repaid years into the long run. the simplest thanks to avoid this debt is solely to go away trees in the ground. Earlier this year associate investigation by The big apple Times found that trees in a very protected forest in a Balkan nation were being cut down and become wood pellets to be burned in stoves and district heating systems across Europe.

Instead of incentivizing the additional destruction of forests, we should always be channeling more cash into insulating homes and putting in heat pumps, says the columbiform bird. each of those would scale back the demand for energy. And Cornelius points out that we’d like to form different sorts of renewable energy even additional fascinating than burning wood. For her, meaning shifting subsidies for fossil fuels and biomass industries to additional powerfully support star, offshore wind, and heat energy. “We have to be compelled to begin golf shot cash wherever it’ll facilitate everybody in society, not the polluting industries. we have a tendency to cannot go from one climate-harmful fuel to a different.”

The money that’s presently channeled into burning may be redirected to assist EU voters to pay their fuel bills, says the columbiform bird. In Central and Japanese Europe, it’s typically poorer United Nations agency|people that|folks that those that|those who} have faith in wood stoves to heat their homes—people who are going to be forced to settle between burning wood or going cold. the answer, the columbiform bird says, isn’t to ban burning wood, however, to alter the system so the foremost environmentally friendly sorts of energy are most costeffective.



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