When it comes to the sustainability of Europe’s bioenergy use, the scale of it is absolutely crucial. There are sustainable biomass sources that we can and should use for energy, but there’s only a limited amount of them available.
At the end of October, a group of European NGOs wrote to the Commission to highlight their recommendations for an ambitious sustainable low carbon transport fuels policy after 2020. A new Commission proposal to revise the current Renewable Energy Directive is expected before the end of the year and several options are on the table.
A political debate about where renewable energy is heading post-2020 has started, so it’s not a coincidence that the biofuels industry is pulling out some big guns to extol its merits. The Réseau Action Climat (RAC), France nature environnement; the Fédération nationale d’agriculture biologique; Oxfam France and La Confédération paysanne, have just fired back with some weapons of their own.
Have you ever wondered what makes real Belgian speculoos so special? The secret is molasses, a sweet, dark brown syrup, used not only for Sunday pancakes but also in many food (BBC recipes here) and feed products.
Across the Southern United States, natural disasters have steadily increased in number and severity, causing loss of life and billions of dollars in damage. It’s clear that the impacts of global climate change are happening here and now. At this very moment Hurricane Matthew is bearing down on the Southeastern coastline, forcing communities in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida to evacuate.
October 19th is the International Day of Action on Bioenergy, a day to raise awareness about the impacts of the growing bioenergy industry driven by unwisely designed renewable energy policies. As we know, in many cases bioenergy hasn’t exactly lived up to the promises of renewable energy such as emission reductions and environmental protection – in many cases the impacts have been quite the opposite.
Seeing is believing, and witnessing first-hand the devastating effect that the European Union’s renewable energy policy is having on the forests and wetlands of the Southeast United States, offers overwhelming evidence of the urgent need to act.
Some of the world’s most valuable forests are still being destroyed in order to make palm oil, of which a considerable portion ends up as biodiesel for use on Europe’s roads. That is the striking message from an investigation by a global alliance of NGOs, including T&E, that has uncovered horrific deforestation in Indonesia’s pristine rainforest in the remote province of Papua.
We all agree that bioenergy used as part of the transition to move to an energy system based on renewables needs to be sustainable. By now, most of us already recognize that not all bioenergy is necessarily sustainable. Looking at ongoing environmental impacts on forests and agricultural landscapes due to increased logging or more intensive management, looking at rights of communities dependent on land cleared for bioenergy crops, looking at actual emission savings achieved… not all bioenergy is beneficial.
Rural development and helping farmers has been a motive to promote bioenergy on the premise that it offers new economic opportunities in rural communities while increasing renewable energy use. The reality is that a good share of the bioenergy pushed for this purpose hasn’t necessarily supported these rural communities, nor has it exactly been sustainable or renewable. Spanish NGO Ecologistas en Accion share their views on how bioenergy can be an environmentally sustainable choice while supporting rural communities.