Bioenergy firms in the European Union are burning pellets made from trees felled in conservation zones, according to startling new research from environmental group Birdlife.
Reported in the Guardian newspaper, the report highlights the fact that some 65 per cent of Europe's so-called 'renewable' energy is bioenergy, which claims to use trees from sustainable sources, as well as waste products from the forestry industry.
However, in reality, Birdlife found that timber from the Poloniny National Park in eastern Slovakia was being burnt in EU bioenergy power plants, as well as riverside forests in Emilia Romagna, Italy, which were being felled as part of a highly questionable flood-risk mitigation project.
Birdlife's bioenergy officer, Sini Eräjää, said “This report provides clear evidence that the EU’s renewable energy policies have led to increased harvesting of whole trees and to continued use of food crops for energy. We are subsidising large-scale environmental destruction, not just outside Europe, as in Indonesia or the US, but also right in our own backyard.”
The report was co-authored by Transport and Environment, whose biofuels officer, Jori Sihvonen, added: “It is easy to fall into thinking that all bioenergy is sustainable, but time and again we see some forms of it can be worse for society, the natural environment and, in the case of burning land-based biofuels or whole trees, even the climate."
The report concludes that more investment needs to go into the development of truly renewable energy generation, such as solar, wind and tidal energy, while bioenergy needs to be "phased out" all together over the coming years.