Table 1. Claims made about bioenergy and facts that counter those claims
To stop climate change, it is necessary to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy, including wood bioenergy.
“Well, that’s the prime objective, to go to full renewables. But simply looking at how fast we need to do that, we just can’t reach the levels of renewables we would need to have [to stop burning fossil fuels and meet European Union energy needs] to completely exclude biomass.”
— Frans Timmermans, Vice President, European Commission, speaking at the 2021 UN Climate Summit, Glasgow (COP 26) (Catanoso, 2021).
To stop climate change, greenhouse gas emissions including CO2 must drop rapidly, reach net zero by approximately 2050 and be net negative beyond 2100.
Burning wood for bioenergy emits carbon dioxide. Trees harvested for bioenergy may regrow, but regrowth is not certain and even if it occurs, would not remove the excess CO2 from burning wood for many decades to a century or longer. In the meantime, the excess carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere and worsens global warming.
To meet our climate goals, steep CO2 emission cuts from all sources are needed now (IPCC, 2022; IPCC, 2021).
Wood bioenergy only adds carbon that was recently taken up by trees back to the atmosphere.
A molecule of CO2 added to the atmosphere causes the same global warming whether it came from fossil fuels, trees, or other plants.
“While burning fossil fuels releases CO2 that has been locked up for millions of years, burning biomass simply returns to the atmosphere the CO2 that was absorbed as the plants grew.”
— UN Food and Agriculture Organization
(Matthews and Robertson 2001)
“Burning biomass for energy provision increases the amount of carbon in the air just like burning coal, oil or gas if harvesting the biomass decreases the amount of carbon stored in plants and soils, or reduces carbon sequestration.” The result is a “fundamental accounting error” that “will likely have substantial adverse
consequences” (Haberl et al., 2012).