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EU nations set to wipe out forests and not account for emissions

May 23, 2017

By Paul Homewood



From the New Scientist:



By Fred Pearce

It looks like greenwash.  European nations publicly keen to boost their climate credentials by switching to “green” biomass are accused of working behind the scenes to expunge their carbon emissions from burning wood in power stations from national emissions statistics.

“If we don’t measure emissions when trees are cut, we won’t measure them at all,” says Hannah Mowat of FERN, a European NGO working to save the continent’s forests, who has followed the EU negotiations on the issue.

Under international climate treaties such as the Paris Agreement, burning biomass like wood is defined as carbon-neutral, even though it emits as least as much carbon as fossil fuels. The assumption is that new trees will be grown to take up the carbon emitted from the burning.

If countries reduce their forest cover – as a result of harvesting trees for biomass burning or anything else – the carbon loss should show up in national statistics under a complex accounting process known as LULUCF, for Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry.

But measuring carbon stocks on the land and in forests is an inexact science, and critics say the LULUCF rules are wide open to accounting errors.

On 19 June, European environment ministers will set their own rules for LULUCF carbon accounting. How they do this will play an important role in Europe meeting its emissions targets under the Paris Agreement.

But Mowat says that countries with plans to replace coal and nuclear fuel burning with wood are lobbying for rules that will obscure likely resulting emissions.

“France, Austria, Sweden and Finland are fighting tooth and nail to weaken the EU’s rules,” Mowat told New Scientist. “This is because they all plan to significantly increase the amount of trees they cut in the next decade: Finland will increase harvesting by 25 per cent and France by 20 per cent, and they don’t want to count the emissions.”

Government data show that France plans to increase timber harvesting by 12 million cubic metres by 2026.  Finland plans a 15 million cubic metre increase, almost entirely for burning more wood in power stations.

Fewer trees will mean less carbon being soaked up from the atmosphere, too.

Mowat estimates that the reduction in the EU’s total forest carbon sink between now and 2030 is equivalent to the emissions of 100 million cars.

The EU would not comment on the negotiations, but agreed that the sink is set to reduce.  A spokesman pointed New Scientist to a 2016 EU report that forecast “a more than 30 per cent reduction in the forest management sink” between 2005 and 2030 in the 28 EU countries.  A reduction in which “biomass and land use change can be identified as key drivers”.


The whole system of accounting for LULUCF is hopelessly open to abuse. Given the inherent corruptness of the EU and the greed of subsidised biomass plants, this sort of thing was always predictable.

But, hey, we’re ticking all the right boxes!

  1. Joe Public permalink
    May 23, 2017 9:57 am

    Thank goodness it’s mainly US firewood that Drax burns.

  2. May 23, 2017 9:57 am

    Reblogged this on Tallbloke's Talkshop and commented:
    Yes folks, they’re going to burn wood on an industrial scale and call it ‘climate-friendly’. You couldn’t make it up.

  3. Dave Ward permalink
    May 23, 2017 9:58 am

    And if that’s a John Deere electric tractor, (which is charged with “renewable” power), they won’t have to worry about accounting for its carbon emissions…

  4. Graeme No.3 permalink
    May 23, 2017 10:06 am

    And the sheep chanted “2 CO2 good, 4 CO2 better”.l

  5. Bloke down the pub permalink
    May 23, 2017 10:12 am

    If the biomass was only of the type shown in the photo, it’d not be a major issue, as the coppiced wood would quickly grow back. However, as much of the biomass burnt in the EU comes from mature woodlands, it will take decades before the rate of absorption of CO₂ returns to current levels. So much for ‘we’ve only got a few years left to save the Earth’. Where’s Flash when you need him?

    • Joe Public permalink
      May 23, 2017 11:12 am

      That’s kindling – to get Drax started every evening.

  6. sean2829 permalink
    May 23, 2017 10:14 am

    30 years ago, everyone wanted to save the rain forest. Now we produce ethanol from the Amazon and palm oil from Indonesian orangutan rain forest habitat. Wetland forest is being cut down down to burn in coal fired power plants, woodlands are being cut down to make marginal farmland for corn and now it looks like boreal forests are next. I predict within 10 years this industrial scale biomass harvest will be seen for what it is, a crime against nature.

    • wert permalink
      May 23, 2017 11:24 am

      Boreal forests are different from the rainforest. CO2 fertilization means the northern forests are gaining mass, but the gain is small if the amount of logging is not increased to match the production – forest which is too full of trees will not sequester any carbon.

      Greens know nothing about forestry, I hope you people understand you can’t ask greens.

  7. May 23, 2017 11:06 am

    Is “wide open to accounting errors” a euphemism for “wide open to fraud?”

  8. Gerry, England permalink
    May 23, 2017 12:44 pm

    Ticks all the right boxes and leaves out any inconvenient boxes.

    It is fine growing saplings to burn – I think willow is one species used for this – but where does the land come from? Good land that could grow food that will be needed as the Little Ice Age progresses? Land cleared from forest having burnt those trees? I am about to purchase a woodland to fuel my woodburning stove to save gas and be prepared for the power cuts that will stop the CH running. When doing something like this it gives you a perspective on how much land you need to be able to have a managed crop of wood with just felling the lot. And you soon see that there isn’t enough land for everyone for heating let alone generating electricity. As our ancestors found out. And then found and use coal.

  9. May 23, 2017 3:38 pm

    BBC radio 4 “Costing the Earth” featured the other side of this coin today. Whilst most countries are frantically chopping down as much wood as possible, in order to “meet EU targets” (which are legally binding), Ireland is doing the opposite, planting large amounts of forest to offset their dairy farming emissions.

    Are the “greenies” happy about what Ireland is doing? Only the carbon-obsessed ones like the truly scary Tom Heap (one of Harrabin’s Ring Wraiths), but not the more enlightened ones, for various agricultural and habitat reasons. The Irish govt are throwing large subsidies at it, with inevitable consequences.

  10. May 23, 2017 6:32 pm

    Reblogged this on Wolsten and commented:
    Roll on Brexit

    • Gerry, England permalink
      May 24, 2017 12:48 pm

      Why? Haven’t you heard that Brexit won’t change any of the lunacy as far as the UK is concerned? True it in theory allows us to do our own thing unless it is restricted by any trade deal May & Co achieve with the EU. Rolling back all the green crap should give us much cheaper electricity and that could be seen as unfair deregulation and competition. Merkel has already mentioned this point.

      • May 25, 2017 4:32 pm

        “Unfair deregulation” … hope that will be seen as an oxymoron post Brexit.

  11. martinbrumby permalink
    May 24, 2017 12:34 am

    All clever stuff!
    And I guess Newpsyentist won’t even have factored in the huge increase in domestic woodburners. I guess we’ve all seen the reports from Greece about the number of trees that have gone ‘missing’ from city & national parks. And plenťy of Germans are up to the same trick.
    I can’t blame those who can’t afford the energy bills (or who have been cut off for non payment) for getting out the chain saw to keep their family warm. Of course, it also exacerbates air pollution!
    Greenie policies at their best!

  12. BoyfromTottenham permalink
    May 24, 2017 3:41 am

    Hi from Oz. I see, the Greens want to return us to the Wood Age, justified by merely classifying ‘wood’ as ‘carbon neutral’. Now I know that cutting down a tree results in timber that can either be burnt, or used for building. The former will surely generate lots of CO2 the moment it is burnt, the latter will sequester the same CO2 for decades or longer. But the IPCC has conveniently ignored this wee point. I wonder why?

  13. John F. Hultquist permalink
    May 24, 2017 3:46 am

    If one wanted to take CO2 from the air, would it not be better to harvest growth from fast growing trees while leaving the roots? Then the harvest could be dried and stacked, sequestering the carbon for many years. In a dry or cold region wood will keep for more than 100 or even several hundred years.
    Burning the harvest may be carbon neutral** if they also account for the carbon footprint of the growing, harvesting, and transport. Is the re-growth that much larger than that which gets burned?

    **Carbon neutral does not reduce atmospheric CO2.

    • HotScot permalink
      May 24, 2017 8:31 pm

      I’d rather we didn’t extract CO2 from the atmosphere.

      Considering that mankind was, at 280ppm atmospheric CO2 content 100 or so years ago, and only 80PPM away from when meaningful plant life begins to die, I rather think we, somehow, dodged a bullet.

      I’ll take my chances, and my children’s chances, with rising atmospheric CO2. The alternative is certain extinction.

      And were I a religious man, I might wonder at the coincidence of man discovering a means of increasing atmospheric CO2, just at the right moment in our planets 65M year existence. It might almost seem we were put here for a reason.

  14. May 24, 2017 7:28 am

    Another green induced environmental disaster

  15. May 24, 2017 8:00 am

    Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

  16. Ewing Caldwell permalink
    May 24, 2017 9:47 am

    How puzzling. It amazes me that Coal, which is wood which Nature has pre-processed to turn it into a much more efficient fuel, is now demonised.

    Has anyone stopped to consider why Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Turkey etc are all semidesert? They used to be heavily wooded, only about three to four thousand years ago. The trees were burnt during the Bronze age to make, and forge bronze. It doesn’t take long.
    You will notice the trees haven’t grown back.

    Live trees have a big advantage over burning trees: they help make the air breathable with fresh oxygen.

    They’re all mad.

    • HotScot permalink
      May 24, 2017 8:33 pm

      Fossil fuels are merely naturally, but accidentally, sequestered CO2.

  17. michael hart permalink
    May 24, 2017 12:34 pm

    “The assumption is that new trees will be grown to take up the carbon emitted from the burning.”

    Exactly. The green approach usually stops at the simple assumptions in their argument. The CO2 from burning trees will actually emit more CO2 per unit of energy consumed than if the same amount of energy was produced from fossil fuels.
    And… you are still emitting net CO2 and increasing the amount in the atmosphere until the time where net new growth is equal to the amount consumed. If you want to actually reduce the amount in the atmosphere then you have to grow more than is consumed, an extra economic and practical burden.

    Similar examples exist in population studies: If women continue to have the same number of children, but have them earlier in life, then the total population will increase. The complete reverse leads to population decline, which has been more often observed in ‘Western’ nations.

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