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Academics and IEA Slam ‘Misleading’ Chatham House Bioenergy Report
by Liz Gyekye (Bioenergy Insight) More than 125 academics have joined the International Energy Agency Bioenergy Technology Collaboration Programme (IEA Bioenergy) slamming Chatham House’s recent report on bioenergy, calling it ‘misleading.
The group of academics from across the world and the IEA state that the report “does not present an objective overview of the current state of scientific understanding with respect to the climate effects of bioenergy”.
They are urging the Chatham House author to “reconsider flawed policy recommendations”.
The Chatham House report, entitled ‘Woody biomass for power and heat impacts on the global climate’
, was published late February. It maintained that using biomass to generate low-carbon electricity is a flawed policy that is speeding up and not slowing down climate warming, according to a new study from Chatham House.
The study maintains that wood is not carbon neutral and emissions from pellets are higher than coal.
IEA Bioenergy points out that this report does not present an objective overview of the current state of scientific understanding with respect to the climate effects of bioenergy.
The IEA Bioenergy experts identified three major areas of concern which they analysed below.
- Climate effects and carbon neutrality of bioenergy. The report gives an inaccurate interpretation of the impact of harvesting on forest carbon stock, proposes a misguided focus on short-term carbon balances and overstates the climate change mitigation value of unharvested forests. It also assumes that forests would remain unharvested and continue to grow if no biomass was used for bioenergy, which is unrealistic.
- Bioenergy and forest products markets and systems. The report considers roundwood to be the main woody bioenergy feedstock, but the on-ground reality is that in the EU, by-products and residues from silviculture are the most common type of feedstock. Furthermore, bioenergy can prompt forest owners to plant more trees and invest in sustainable forest management practices. The report largely overlooks the role bioenergy can play in supporting the urgently needed energy system transition.
- Sustainability criteria. The report fails to acknowledge that forest bioenergy is not a single entity but an integral part of the forest management, forestry and energy-industry system that also produces material products. It is therefore unreasonable to expect that the maintenance of the carbon stock in forests would be guaranteed by sustainability criteria applied to the bioenergy category only. READ MORE / MORE and MORE (Netzwerk Biotreibstoffe) and Original Report / Response