Sustainable use of bioenergy

NEWS Published

The European Commission recently presented a proposal containing sustainability criteria on bioenergy. Issues like the definition of sustainable bioenergy and its impact on the future use of biomass and forest management were discussed at a seminar in co-organised by Swedish Enterprise, the Federation of Swedish Farmers and the Swedish Forestry Industries Federation on December 7th.

Seminar Sustainable use of bioenergy, panel
Seminar Sustainable use of bioenergy, panel
Sustainable use of bioenergy panel
Sustainable use of bioenergy panel
Sustainable use of bioenergy Mårten Larsson
Sustainable use of bioenergy Mårten Larsson
Sustainable use of bioenergy
Christofer Fjellner, Emma Berglund, Gustav Egnell, Magnus Kindbom, Giulio Volpi, Anders Wijkman, Mårten Larsson

MEP Christofer Fjellner, the host of the seminar, moderated the discussion moderator of the discussion among the invited speakers:

  • Emma Berglund, Secretary General CEPF
  • Gustav Egnell, Researcher, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
  • Magnus Kindbom, Director of Forestry Federation of Swedish Farmers
  • Giulio Volpi, European Commission, DG Energy, renewable energy & CCS
  • Anders Wijkman, President of Club of Rome & former President of Environmental objectives council of Sweden

Mårten Larsson (Forestry Director, Swedish Forestry Industries Federation) introduced the seminar by talking about biomass from a system perspective. He underlined that parts of a tree are used for many different purposes and stressed that the Swedish forest sector is driving growth in the global bioeconomy.

- Think about it as a bank account, if you have 100 euros, you have 5 euros in revenue you can use every year without removing money from the account. If you have 200 euros you get 10 euros every year. The more forest you have, the more you can use sustainable. Europe should grow trees!

When MEP Christofer Fjellner, MEP for EPP, asked about Larsson’s key concerns, the answer was immediate:

- Don’t regulate and put a cap on forest harvesting. Let the member states decide how much harvest they can allow in a sustainable manner.

Emma Berglund (Secretary General  of the European Forest Owners) raised the forest owners’ perspective and put forward three messages: Europe’s forest are sustainable, energy demand does not drive harvest and bioenergy does not put European forests at risk. Berglund also said that there there is already legislation in place for timber, LULUCF, biodiversity and national principles for sustainable forest management.

-But this is the first time the European Commission moves away from subsidiarity principle, and puts forward legislation on the sustainability of forests, Berglund stated.

To understand the carbon neutrality principles Gustaf Egnell (Researcher, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences) presented the European Forest Institute report "Forest biomass, carbon neutrality and climate change mitigation". He argued that carbon neutrality is a debated topic and that there is no clear consensus among the scientists.  

-When someone presents you a result, you always have to ask what assumptions are behind. When assessing the climate impact of biomass, it’s crucial to look at assumptions on timeframe, scope and how biomass is compared to fossil fuels.

Egnell concluded by stating that he does not want the Commission to create policies where renewable energy sources are pitted against each other instead of competing with fossil fuels. A one-size-fits-all policy is unlikely to be optimal.

Giulio Volpi (DG Energy, renewable energy & CCS) introduced the Commission’s proposal by underlining the wish to create incentives for the efficient use of wood. He also made clear the intention of the Commission to phase out the first generation of biofuels but create clear incentives to promote advanced biofuels.

-The Commission’s approach is pragmatic and we have presented sustainability criteria that constitute a minimum level of responsibility. There are many uncertainties concerning the sustainability of biomass we have recognized that in our work, Volpi explained.

Anders Wijkman (President of Club of Rome & former President of Environmental objectives council of Sweden) stressed that the Commission needs to be careful with the transaction costs and not put too much regulation and administrative burden on small market actors. Wijkman also raised the fact that bio-based economy is a pillar in Sweden’s Climate strategy.

-Sweden is covered to 65% of forests and we have a long tradition of taking care of our forests. The approach to forest management is divided in Europe, Wijkman said.

During the discussion Magnus Kindbom (Director of Forestry Federation of Swedish Farmers) explained the environmental benefits of managed forests and its contribution to mitigating climate change.

-Trees are like teenagers, they are eating most CO2 in when they are growing up! Older forest don’t contribute as much, Kindbom stated.

MEP Christofer Fjellner summed up the discussion with one last warning,

-We have to be careful so we don’t regulate biomass to hard and fails to reach the main goal, tackling climate change and phasing out fossil fuels.

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