“The loopholes in these sustainability standards are big enough to
drive a logging truck through. Having learnt nothing from the biofuels debacle,
the Government has ignored the latest scientific research and produced
standards that will take a potentially sustainable industry and transform it
into one more way to greenwash environmental destruction. The climate isn’t
going to fall for creative accounting and neither should the public.”
The new sustainability standards have made some improvements from the
original drafts published last year, in particular confirming that the
standards will become mandatory, and that the standard for the apparent
emissions associated with bioenergy will be tightened (although see points 1
and 2 below) . But the improvements are overwhelmed by the failure to deal with
several major issues, which means that there can be no guarantee that bioenergy
in UK will be beneficial for climate change. The holes are:
1.No mention of carbon debt or carbon stock - Numerous scientific
reports have highlighted that burning biomass is a high carbon source of
energy, only becoming low carbon if regrowth of forests occurs, and before this
happens there will be a ‘carbon
debt’ where more carbon dioxide is in the Earth’s atmosphere, even, in the
worst cases, when compared to using coal instead of biomass.
2.No mention of indirect material use change or land use change – if wood
chip is diverted to bioenergy use instead of other uses, this could have
substantial climate impacts. For example, if wood destined for fibre-board in
construction is diverted to
bioenergy and is replaced by steel the climate implications would be
significant. Residual wastes which have no other use can contribute genuine
emissions reductions but supplies may well be limited and large-scale
use would be unsustainable.
These issues were meant to have been examined by a
piece of work in DECC being overseen by Chief Scientist David Mackay.
Although a draft version of this work was shown to stakeholders earlier this
out the concerns in the points above, DECC have chosen to publish
the sustainability standards before that work is completed.
DECC are advocating use of existing Govt Timber purchasing guidelines.
Greenpeace believes that the best available standard, FSC, should be adopted,
standards that could be allowed by the scheme are not adequate.