Countries must stop burning trees to make energy because it undermines the world’s climate and nature goals and destroys valuable wildlife habits, urged 650 scientists in a group letter to world leaders.
In the buildup to Cop15 – the UN’s biodiversity summit – scientists have called on countries to stop using forest bioenergy to create heat and electricity, which they believed had been “wrongly deemed ‘carbon neutral’.”
The letter, published on activist site ‘Cut Carbon, Not Forests‘, says: “The best thing for the climate and biodiversity is to leave forests standing – and biomass energy does the opposite.”
Instead, the scientists have called for renewable energy sources such as wind and solar to make up the deficit from biomass generation.
The letter was sent to multiple world leaders including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and US President Joe Biden.
Scientists warn that if global leaders agree to protect 30 per cent of land and sea by the end of the decade at the Cop15 meeting in Montreal, they must also commit to ending reliance on biomass energy.
Bioenergy is expected to account for a third of “low-carbon” energy by the end of the decade, according to a report by the International Energy Agency.
The UK is the top importer of wood pellets for biomass, with Drax Power Station wood-burning facilities having a key role in the country’s net zero strategy.
Currently, Drax’s generation is mired in controversy, amid accusations it is cutting wood from carbon-rich forests in Canada, which it denies.
When approached for comment, a Drax slammed the report as “very misleading” and argued it made “a series of claims which are completely false”.
A spokesperson said: “The forests which Drax sources from are not harvested for biomass – they supply the timber used in the wooden products which we all use in our homes. Sustainable biomass is a crucial part of the forestry sector because it provides a market for material like sawdust, forest residuals and low-grade wood which often has no other commercial use and would otherwise be burned at the roadside or disposed of.”