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UNFCCC Flaws Will Defeat The Great Aspirations Of The Glasgow Leaders Declaration On Forests And Land Use

COP 26 must shift the world from burning all carbon-emitting fuels, including forest biomass

2nd November, 2021 - London, Brussels, Washington, Tokyo, Buenos Aires

World Leaders are to be commended for their declaration of intention to save and restore forests and other natural ecosystems, but must make important, urgent changes to current policies promoting forest biomass energy if the commitment is to be meaningful and not follow the failures of previous forest declarations, according to the Biomass Working Group of the Environmental Paper Network.

Ms Peg Putt, co-ordinator – Biomass Working Group, EPN, said:

“Everyone wants good news from Glasgow and saving forests is a no-brainer, but the one hundred signatory nations must now throw out contradictory policies that promote logging and burning forests for energy if this is to be worth anything more than a short term public relations splash.”

“We can’t burn our way out of the climate crisis, but we must instead deploy forests for their best contribution to restraining climate change and shoring up biodiversity – by keeping them standing and restoring those that have been degraded or lost to industrial logging and land use change.”

“It is vital to recognise that carbon neutrality is not achieved by so-called ‘sustainable’ forestry. Burning trees for renewable energy emits carbon instantaneously, while trees take much longer to regrow.”

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“The declaration allows for industrial forestry, a major cause of loss of carbon stocks and overall ecological integrity essential for ecosystem stability and resilience. Australia and Brazil are signatories. They have their own interpretations of sustainability which allow business as usual.”

“EU countries that just refused to stop subsidising forest biomass energy in their Renewable Energy Directive, such as Sweden and Estonia, now have signed this declaration despite the enormous damage done to their own forests and the carbon sink through encouraging large scale biomass energy. Have they no shame?”

“The UK has led out on this important declaration but is also the world’s largest biomass burning nation, sucking in natural forests from far away and burning them in addition to their own forests and blithely ignoring the huge emissions caused at the smokestack. It’s literally breathtaking.”

The Biomass Working Group says that there are 2 key problems with UNFCCC rules. Fixing these flaws is a key test of the sincerity of the signatories:

1. Countries do not account for smokestack emissions from burning biomass for energy whilst they do account for smokestack emissions from fossil fuels used for energy generation. Burning biomass emits more CO2 than fossil fuels per unit energy. This major flaw in carbon accounting is a root cause of the dramatic, ongoing expansion of big biomass.

2. The UN rules do not differentiate between a rich ancient forest and a monoculture plantation, so turning one into the other is accounted for as no change.

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