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RSPB welcomes bioenergy review

Last modified: 07 December 2011

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The RSPB has welcomed the Committee on Climate Change Bioenergy Review released today (Wednesday December 7).

Harry Huyton, RSPB head of energy and climate change policy, said: “This is an important and timely report. With the right policies in place bioenergy could offer vital carbon savings, but it also has the potential to accelerate the destruction of forests and other natural habitats and make climate change worse.

“The Government must take an evidence-based approach to the industry, supporting only those schemes that offer genuine climate benefits. The CCC’s new report sets out some urgent first steps to this position. Government must now follow this advice if bioenergy is to play a positive role in the UK’s energy future. If they fail to do so then public money will be used to prop up a fundamentally unsustainable, damaging industry.

“Critical to this is removing subsidies for large-scale biomass electricity.  Earlier this year, the RSPB published a review of proposals for such power stations in the UK. We found that 32 plants were in development and they planned to import 81% of the biomass they were going to burn – that means they would require up to 33 million tonnes of imported wood which will come from forestry markets in Canada, Russia and the US.

“Not only is this environmental madness, but the CCC have today shown that it does not make economic sense either. Offshore wind, for example, offers low-carbon, renewable energy at a similar cost but without threatening forests.”

The CCC have also suggested that bioenergy could supply up to 10% of UK energy in 2050, and that this would be within sustainable limits. They have, however, said that its role must ultimately be constrained by the sustainable supply, and that we should not attempt to meet targets if it becomes clear that they are unsustainable.

Mr Huyton added: “This is a clear message to Government that the role of bioenergy must be based on the amount of sustainable supplies available, and that it must not recklessly pursue it bioenergy targets if it becomes clear that they are at the expense of the environment.

“This advice is particularly pertinent to Government’s policy of subsidising biofuels in spite of the continued accumulation of evidence that they cause more problems for the environment then they solve. In Kenya, for example, the RSPB has been fighting to prevent a major biofuel plantation that would destroy a dry tropical forest, whilst in Indonesia palm oil expansion continues to fuel deforestation.”

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