Bioenergy is composed of two words: “bio” - deriving from biological materials, such as wood, agricultural crops or organic waste and “energy” - which means it can be used in electricity, heating and cooling, but also in transport.
In our drive to save emissions and to avoid climate change from happening, bioenergy is proposed as one of the solutions. But the assumption that all bioenergy (the burning of biomass, such as wood or liquid fuels produced from agricultural crops) is carbon neutral has been proven to be false. Increasing biofuels and other biomass production for energy use could not only lead to an explosion of CO2 emissions but also to a wider environmental damage, through the Direct and Indirect Land Use Change processes. BirdLife Europe has been one of the first NGOs to flag up these issues.
We are supporting our Partner organisations in assisting countries that are facing an increasing number of land grabs, which is threatening local communities and wildlife habitats. A notable success has been our support to the BirdLife Partner in Kenya, Nature Kenya, in opposing the clearing of the Dakatcha forest for a jatropha plantation aimed at exporting biodiesel into the EU.
Bioenergy can become unsustainable when it causes large impacts on land and people or is not saving carbon emissions. BirdLife believes, however, that bioenergy can be part of the solution to tackle climate change as a part of the renewable energy mix if it is made in such a way that it actually saves emissions and is not harming people or the environment.
On Biofuels: in order to support our advocacy work, we have commissioned a series of scientific studies demonstrating why CO2 emissions and Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) should be taken into account in biofuels production. BirdLife Europe has also developed a series of informative and educational communication outcomes to help understand the issue.
On Biomass: in order to support our push for sustainable criteria for biomass we have jointly commissioned a scientific study showing the unsustainability of using biomass for energy purpose. We also organised an event with US scientists in the European Parliament to raise MEPs’ awareness on this issue.
Land Use Change and Indirect Land Use Change: Land Use Change consists of using a land for another purpose. It becomes a problem when farmers decide to move from growing food crops to growing biofuels because it is more financially viable. An animation video explaining this process is available to watch here. The consequence is that either we lose food production or we begin food production on other land. Usually this concerns forests, grass lands or wetlands, which are crucial to store CO2. This process also generates the destruction of natural habitats in forest, grasslands and wetlands and drives a rapid biodiversity loss in these areas.
Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe.