International Campaigns

Global demand for biomass energy is destroying forests around the world.

Rapidly increasing demand for biomass in the EU, UK and Asia is driving exponential growth in wood pellet manufacturing, presenting a genuine threat to forests worldwide, including in the southeast U.S. and Canada. World nations will fail to meet their climate and biodiversity goals if they continue to treat woody biomass energy as carbon neutral and renewable. About five years after launching in the US, PFPI expanded our work internationally to counter this threat.

Under the umbrella of the Forest Defenders Alliance, a diverse coalition of NGOs and activists, PFPI is currently campaigning to reform the biomass provisions in the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED). Since the EU started promoting biomass as renewable energy, wood-burning for heat and electricity has more than doubled in the EU, dramatically increasing logging of primary forests for biomass in Europe and abroad. Many EU member states are on the brink of losing their forest and land carbon sinks, or have lost them altogether, in large part due to the logging for biomass energy.

The harm caused by the EU’s biomass policies extends well beyond Europe. In the U.S. Southeast, the wood pellet industry supplying overseas markets is wreaking severe ecological damage and disproportionately harming BIPOC communities. Old growth forests in Canada are increasingly being chopped down for fuel. Other countries, particularly in Asia, have emulated EU’s biomass energy policies, amplifying the pressure on forests around the world. In 2019, international groups sought to block the harm by suing the European Union over its RED policy, but were denied standing.

In September 2022, after hundreds of scientists, NGOs, and more than 250,000 citizens petitioned European leaders to stop treating wood-burning as “renewable energy,” the EU Parliament voted on modest reforms, including recommending a phase-down of primary woody biomass sourced directly from forests. The Forest Defenders Alliance is now seeking to persuade the EU Parliament, Council, and Commission to clarify and strengthen the biomass provisions in Trilogue.

Key resources:

Burning up the carbon sink: How the EU’s forest biomass policy undermines climate mitigation, and how it can be reformed (2022)
Paper Tiger: Why the EU’s RED II biomass sustainability criteria fail forests and the climate (2020)
EU Biomass Legal Case
Forest Defenders Alliance

EU climate, nature and air quality goals are in jeopardy because of wood-burning for energy, new study shows

Climate-critical land carbon sink is rapidly declining, while harvesting and burning wood for biomass energy continues to grow

Air Pollution, All posts, Carbon emissions, European Policy, Featured, International, Science/Analysis, Subsidies

Environmental coalition sues the European Commission over inclusion of biomass and forestry activities in EU Sustainable Finance Taxonomy

EU Commission has refused to reconsider taxonomy, which directs ‘sustainable investment’ towards activities causing immense environmental harm.

International, Litigation
European Parliament with flags

European Parliament Takes First Step to Limit Forest Biomass Energy in the Renewable Energy Directive

Environmental groups expressed grave concerns that measures adopted by the European Parliament (EP) do not go far enough to limit the use of forest biomass in the Renewable Energy Directive

International

Challenging Greenwashing, NGOs Take Aim at Sweeping EU Finance Policy

“Green” investment criteria for bioenergy and forestry will increase emissions and degrade forests

All posts, International, Litigation

EU climate plan bets on non-existent technology to reduce emissions

Plans for climate neutrality rely on doubling biomass burning and trapping CO2 using geological storage, locking EU into climate failure.

All posts, Forests, International, Subsidies

Estonian law student takes on state-owned Finnish forestry company in battle to save her childhood singing fields

Case could make it easier for communities and NGOs to protect forests across Estonia, where vital woodland has been decimated by industrial logging

All posts, European Policy, Forests, International, Litigation

Korean solar industry makes unprecedented legal challenge to “green” credentials of biomass energy

Canadian citizen joins suit against Korean government alleging irreparable harm to forests and climate from use of British Columbia wood pellets

Air Pollution, All posts, Biomass basics, Carbon emissions, International, Litigation, wood_pellets

“Paper Tiger” report shows new EU biomass rules greenlight increased forest destruction

Analysis supports appeal of lawsuit against EU on forest biomass

Carbon emissions, European Policy, Forests, International, Main reports, Reports, Slider content

EU Biomass Case Denied Access to The Courts

Paying people to burn wood for energy and simply counting the emissions as zero, as the EU now does, is hollowing out forests and actually increasing GHG emissions. Stopping this practice is essential climate mitigation – which is what we desperately need.

Air Pollution, All posts, Biomass basics, Carbon emissions, European Policy, International, Litigation

EU Sustainable Finance Taxonomy: Burning Trees Isn’t Green

Finance standards reject EU’s biomass “sustainability criteria” as not protecting forests and the climate

All posts, Bioenergy finance, Biomass basics, Carbon emissions, International