Europe and Central Asia


Wood harvesting in Germany © Andreas Beer


Bioenergy, biofuels, biogas, biomass….it can be hard to get your head around the phonetic jargon. But one thing is for sure – bioenergy currently makes up the vast majority (65%) of the EU’s renewable energy mix. However, as the saying goes ‘All that glitters is not gold’ and, similarly, all that is renewable is not sustainable. Bioenergy is simply not the clean dream we all hoped it would be: burning of biomass still results in CO2 emissions from the smokestacks, and, in some cases, it can even make global warming worse.

Government subsidies and incentives have encouraged industries to jump on the bioenergy bandwagon – with alarmingly unsustainable consequences. There are countless horror stories of ‘land grabs’ where land needed to grow diverse food crops has been seized in order to grow biofuels. And while turning organic waste from existing industries (such as forestry) into energy is an entirely sensible use of an otherwise useless by-product, we are now seeing more and more of good wood being chopped down simply to be burned. This is the very definition of resource inefficiency in a resource-poor world. 

Of course, some forms of bioenergy – notably those that use biomass sources without existing uses – are good, when used in moderation. The problem is that the current ‘blank cheque’ approach lumps in the good with the bad and, as a result, turns a potential solution into a problem in itself.

We are working actively to highlight the dangers and the fact that the current use of bioenergy in the EU is not sustainable and that policies driving growing bioenergy use need to chance. 

BirdLife Europe has been intensively working to highlight the environmental risks of using crops grown on agricultural land for fuel instead of food, resulting in significant emissions from indirect land use change (ILUC). This work resulted in the EU to limit the use of food based biofuels in the transport sector.   

The EU is currently revising its climate and energy policies for the next decade, from 2020 to 2030. We are campaigning to include urgently needed safeguards for bioenergy in these policies, to limit the amount and the kinds of biomass sources we use for energy.

To read more about our work and to get the latest news on bioenergy visit our blog #EUBioenergy:   


THE BURNING ISSUE - When bioenergy goes bad  - Click here to watch the trailer of our documentary 








More Publications
Briefings and Position papers


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. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.