Flawed EU biomass legislation causing mass deforestation in Europe

Haanja nature reserve

NEWS AND COMMENT: This is a very disturbing story. It concerns the first EU renewable energy directive. It obliges member states to source 20% of energy from renewable sources by 2020 in the interests of sustainability. As I understand it, the legislation classifies biomass energy as carbon-neutral. A flaw in the legislation means that woody biomass is fully categorised as renewable notwithstanding that it has come from whole trees chopped down for the purpose. It appears that the intention was that woody biomass would come from wood residues or waste. This flaw means that companies can harvest forests for pellets when they should be making pellets from waste. This is a loophole in the legislation.

Haanja nature reserve

Haanja nature reserve. Picture in public domain.

The EU wants to double the use of renewable energy by 2030. Scientists have warned the EU legislators that the current legislation would accelerate the climate crisis and devastate mature forests. The EU did not amend the legislation. Almost all European countries have recorded an increase in logging as a source of energy. Almost 25% of trees cut down on the EU in 2019 were for energy. This is an increase from 17% in 2000.

An example is the forests of Estonia. Forests cover 2 million ha or about half of the country. Almost 1 million acres fall under the EU’s Natura 2000 network. This is designed to protect Europe’s forests. Estonia has their Haanja nature reserve. A local man, Kalev Järvik, said that he used to walk through a canopy of trees but now, when he walks, there is a bold patch of land. The trees have been cut down in what is described as a “clear-cutting” logging process. It has happened in some parts of this nature reserve. The demand for Estonian wood has soared and Kalev Järvik can no longer bear the sounds of chainsaws destroying his beloved forests. He doesn’t want to leave home because of it.

You don’t want to leave home, because the landscape has become so impassable, it leaves you feeling anguished. But still the noise comes.

Comment: an example of failed EU legislation designed to do one thing but achieving the opposite. We are accustomed to reading about the unregulated logging of the Amazon rainforest. News about that occasionally surfaces and then it goes quiet again. In the meantime millions of acres are chopped down. And now we have something similar, on a lesser scale, occurring in Europe. You would never have dreamt of it unless you’ve read about it. It doesn’t surprise me because EU legislation is often disastrous. I am pleased the UK has left the EU. A blessing.