UK sustainability standards for biomass called into question

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UK sustainability standards for biomass called into question

This week, an article has been published by the Ecologist journal, asserting that the UK's recently introduced sustainability and greenhouse gas standards for biomass could be 'legitimising forest destruction.'

Writing for the publication, Biofuelwatch's Almuth Ernsting describes how large biomass power stations in the UK, such as the Drax plant, have barely been affected by these new standards, despite the fact that they are intended to prevent plants with poor sustainability records from receiving government grants.

'Drax is receiving around £1m in public subsidies every single day for burning pellets made from 12 million tonnes of wood a year. The power station continues to burn up to six million tonnes of coal annually, too,' writes Ernsting. She adds that, as well as using masses of timber pellets sourced from the Global Biodiverse Hotspot of the North American Coastal Plain region, Drax also burns pellets sourced from clearcut swamp forests.

Ernsting explains the significance of this as follows: 'US conservation NGOs have provided clear evidence that some of Drax's pellets are coming from the clearcutting of coastal swamp forests, which are one of the most biodiverse temperate forest and aquatic habitats in the world. Needless to say, burning wood from clearcut forests is the very opposite of low-carbon.'

The article also raises the issue that power plants such as Drax are now seeking out 'sustainability certificates', which are issued by the Sustainable Biomass Partnership organisation. This organisation is almost entirely controlled and owned by energy companies which could lead to questions concerning impartiality and credibility. It is uncertain why such an organisation was required when established, independent forestry auditing services already exist.

To learn more about the biomass issue please visit the Use Wood Wisely website.