Scientists task leaders to protect forests from bio-energy use

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Worried by rapid depletion of forest resources, over 650 scientists have petitioned world leaders to stop burning trees to make energy, as it destroys valuable habitats for wildlife.
The world has lost 420 million hectares, approximately 10.34 per cent of its total forest area in the last 30 years, according to the 2022 edition of The State of the World’s Forests (SOFO) report.

In the letter published by the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC), and addressed to world leaders including Joe Biden, Rishi Sunak and the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, the Deputy Director, Global Biodiversity Conservation, Nature Program, Elly Pepper, lamented that governments and the bioenergy industry each have one hand on an axe that is decimating the world’s forests, adding that continuing to put a fake renewable like biomass energy at the heart of their net zero plans will undermine any global deal promising to save nature by 2030.

In the buildup to Cop15, the UN biodiversity summit, they said countries urgently needed to stop using forest bioenergy to create heat and electricity as it undermined international climate and nature targets, instead, renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, they said, should be used.

NRDC, noted that bioenergy has ‘wrongly been deemed ‘carbon neutral’ and many countries are increasingly relying on forest biomass to meet net zero goals, whereas the best thing for the climate and biodiversity is to leave forests standing while biomass energy does the opposite.

The letter further warned that if global leaders agree to protect 30 per cent of land and sea by 2030 at the Cop15 meeting in Montreal, they must also commit to ending reliance on biomass energy.

Commitments made at Cop15 and at climate conferences could be undermined if this practice continues, it says.

Lead author of the letter and director of science at Kew Gardens, United Kingdom, Prof. Alexandre Antonelli, said: “Ensuring energy security is a major societal challenge, but the answer is not to burn our precious forests. Calling this ‘green energy’ is misleading and risks accelerating the global biodiversity crisis.”

The scientists said cutting down trees for bioenergy results in the release of carbon that would otherwise have been locked up in carbon-rich forests, increases emissions and creates “carbon debt”, which is only paid off decades or even centuries later if the trees are regrown.

Presently, Canada, Estonia and the United States of America are the largest providers of wood for biomass.

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