Large-scale bioenergy must be excluded from the EU's renewable energy definition

From forest to biomass. Photo: Asea! via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA)
From forest to biomass. Photo: Asea! via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA)
We, the signatories of this declaration, are calling on the European Union (EU) to exclude bioenergy from its next Renewable Energy Directive (RED), and thereby stop direct and indirect subsidies for renewable energy from biofuels and wood-burning.
The EU already bears great responsibility for the climate and biodiversity crises. Claiming more land for bioenergy under the false premise that this is a contribution to climate protection, can only increase its unacceptably high land footprint.

The EU is provoking a global expansion in industrial bioenergy use and the rapid development and expansion of a global trade in biofuels and wood-based bioenergy.

Of all energy classed as renewable in the EU in 2012, bioenergy and 'waste' accounted for around two-thirds.

By including bioenergy in renewable energy targets, the EU is promoting direct and indirect subsidies for it, claiming that it is a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels.

But according to the International Energy Agency, renewable energy is "energy derived from natural processes (e.g. sunlight and wind) that are replenished at a faster rate than they are consumed."

Bioenergy does not meet this definition as there is no guarantee that all biomass that is burned is replenished, and it is never replenished "at a faster rate" than it is consumed.

Moreover, large-scale bioenergy is far from sustainable, as it relies on a major expansion of industrial agriculture, of monoculture tree plantations, and of industrial logging.

These industrial activities deplete and pollute soils and water, destroy forests, grasslands and wetlands, and destroy the livelihoods of workers, farmers, Indigenous Peoples and other communities, particularly in the global South.

The very scale of industrial bioenergy is a problem in itself

The EU claims to have a very ambitious climate policy and emission reduction targets. But this claim is built on the false premise that large-scale bioenergy is inherently carbon neutral, or at least 'low carbon'.

A growing body of evidence, however, shows that, especially when bioenergy is produced and used on a large scale, it tends to increase rather than decrease carbon emissions when compared to fossil fuels.

Many in the EU claim that the adverse environmental and climatic impacts of large-scale bioenergy can be avoided through the application of sustainability standards. However, standards applied to individual batches of 'raw material' cannot address an issue that is inherently one of scale: the very scale of industrial bioenergy is a problem in itself.

Standards and certification schemes are applied only to specific loads of biomass or biofuel, and have no impact on overall scale and expansion. On the contrary, they may add to the problem by legitimising large-scale bioenergy use in the eyes of the public.

Furthermore, as the Volkswagen scandal has shown, standards and even regulations are ineffective without strict independent enforcement - yet existing biofuel standards and proposed ones for biomass rely entirely on self-regulation by companies and their chosen consultants.

Competing with truly sustainable alternatives, like wind and sun

In the EU, bioenergy tends to compete with less carbon- and land-intensive renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, rather than with fossil fuels, because it fits into the current infrastructure for the latter, and so hinders real change.

The EU already bears great responsibility for the climate and biodiversity crises. Claiming more land for bioenergy under the false premise that this is a contribution to climate protection, can only increase its unacceptably high land footprint.

Bioenergy can provide a sustainable energy option, but only when produced on a small-scale basis for local energy needs, and only if (for example) the health impacts of indoor smoke, especially on women, are taken into account.

Small-scale local bioenergy schemes could still attract support, for example under Rural Development programmes. In fact, community-based bioenergy schemes often benefit from this type of support already, rather than from the subsidies that stem from the Renewable Energy Directive, which disproportionately boost large-scale industrial schemes.

The EU cannot be allowed to continue the current model of energy consumption, promoted through false assumptions about bioenergy being renewable, when its application at an industrial scale clearly is not. Claims of emission reductions are often false, and come at the expense of land, livelihoods, workers rights, forests, soil and water.

The EU already bears great responsibility for the climate and biodiversity crises currently facing the planet. Claiming more land for bioenergy production, under the false premise that this is a contribution to climate protection, can only increase the already unacceptably high land footprint of the EU.

End the EU's prodigious over-consumption of energy!

We call on the EU to end the current overconsumption of energy, and its huge impact on peoples and ecosystems globally, and to move towards a major reduction in energy consumption with all the changes in current development models that will imply.

A positive step and a good signal for the rest of the world would be to fully recognise the devastating direct and indirect impacts of large-scale bioenergy on people, territories, forests, and the climate, and to exclude bioenergy from definitions of renewable energy and from the next EU RED.



This statement was released this week by Biofuelwatch, signed by 115 civil society organisations and social networks from 43 different countries. Click here to see the original and here for a Spanish version of this declaration.

Background information: 'Bioenergy Out: Why bioenergy should not be included in the next EU Renewable Energy Directive'.


Abibiman Foundation, Ghana
Acción Ecológica, Ecuador
AEFJN (Africa Europe Faith & Justice Network), International
AFAC (Action Communautaire des Femmes
Autochtones du Congo), Democratic Republic of Congo
Africando, Spain
ALDEAH (Alternatives au Développement
Extractiviste et Anthropocentré), France
Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and
Development (APWLD), International
Asociación MONTUBIA, Peru
Asociación pola Defensa da Ría APDR Galicia, Spain
Association Nigérienne des Scouts de l'Environnement, Niger
Attac France
Belantara Papua Sorong, Indonesia
Biofuelwatch, UK/US
Biowatch, South Africa
Blackwater Nottoway Riverkeeper Program, US
Bosques Sin Forestales, Chile
Bumi Bhakti Persada Pasuruan, Indonesia
Censat Agua Viva (Friends of the Earth Columbia), Colombia
Center for Biological Diversity, US
Center for Encounter and active Non-Violence, Austria
Center for Environment, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Center for Indigenous Farming Systems, India
Centro de Estudios Ecuménicos, Mexico
Centro Salvadoreño de Tecnologia Apropiada
(CESTA) / Friends of the Earth El Salvador, El Salvador
Coal Action Network, UK
Coalition Against Landgrabbing, Philippines
COECOCEIBA (Friends of the Earth Costa Rica), Costa Rica
Colectivo Madre Selva, Guatemala
Comisión Par la Defensa de la Vida y La Naturaleza, Guatemala
Comité Oscar Romero de Vigo, Spain
Community Alliance for Global Justice, US
Comunidad Salud Ancestral Ñuke Mapu Newe,n Chile
Corporate Europe Observatory, EU
Crocevia, Italy
Dayak Voices (DVFC Borneo), Indonesia
Denkhaus Bremen, Germany
Dogwood Alliance, US
Earthlife Africa Durban, South Africa
Ecologistas en Acción, Spain
EcoNexus, UK
End Ecocide on Earth, International
Environmental Rights Action (Friends of the Earth
Nigeria), Nigeria
ESAFF - Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale
Farmers Forum Eastern and Southern Africa
ETC Group, International
European Coordination Via Campesina, Europe
European Forum on Nature Conservation and
Pastoralism, Europe
FIAN International, International
Food and Water Europe, Europe
Food and Water Watch, International
Friends of the Earth Australia, Australia
Friends of the Earth International, International
Friends of the Siberian Forest, Russia
Fuel Poverty Action, UK
Gaia Foundation, UK
GISA ( Grupo de Investigación de Suelo y Agua), Venezuela
Global Forest Coalition, International
Global Justice Ecology Project, US
GMWatch, UK
Green Cross Society, Ukraine
Growth Partners Africa, Africa
Grupo de Reflexión Rural, Argentina
ICCA Consortium, International
ICPPC (International Coalition to Protect the Polish
Countryside,) Poland
INFOE e.V., Germany
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), US
Institute of Cultural Affairs Cameroon, Cameroon
JATAM Sulteng (Jaringan Advokasi Tambang
Sulawesi Tengah), Indonesia
JPIC (Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation), Indonesia
Justiça Ambiental (Friends of the Earth
Mozambique), Mozambique
KeFRA - Kenyan Food Rights Alliance, Kenya
Kesatuan Nelayan Tradisional Indonesia, Indonesia
Link-AR Borneo, Indonesia
Maderas del Pueblo del Sureste, Oaxaca-Chiapas, Mexico
MADGE Australia, Australia
Mangrove Action Project, International
Meada Thoamacheat (Mother Nature), Cambodia
Merangat Foundation, Indonesia
Mitra Lingkungan Hidup Kalimantan, Indonesia
Movimiento Mesoamericano contra el Modelo
extractivo Minero - M4, Central America
MUFRAS-32 (Movimiento Unificado Francisco
Sánchez 1932), El Salvador
National Association of Professional
Environmentalists (NAPE) (Friends of the Earth
Uganda), Uganda
NOAH (Friends of the Earth Denmark), Denmark
OPPUK, Indonesia
Organización Rakizuam Mapuche, Chile
Organización Sabiduría del LaKuTuN, Chile
Organización Trepey Pu Lamngen, Chile
Otros Mundos A/C (Friends of the Earth Mexico), Mexico
Plataforma de Solidaridad con Chiapas y Guatemala
de Madrid, Spain
Pragya, International
Pro Wildlife, Germany
Quercus - Associação Nacional de Conservação da
Natureza, Portugal
RECOMA ( Red contra los monocultivos de árboles
en América Latina), International
Red Latina sin fronteras, International
Regenwald Institut e.V., Germany
Rettet den Regenwald e.V., Germany
Salva la Selva, Spain
Samudram Odisha, India
Save Our Borneo, Indonesia
SERJOS (Servicios Jurídicos y Sociales), Guatemala
SKP KAME (Sekretariat Keadilan dan Pedamaian)
Papua, Indonesia
Solidarity Sweden-Latin America, Sweden
Sunray Harvesters, India
Timberwatch, South Africa
Transnational Institute, International
Traperos de Emaus, Torrelavega, Spain
USC Canada, Canada
Walhi NTT (Friends of the Earth East Indonesia), Indonesia
Woodland League, Ireland
World Family UK
World Rainforest Movement, International
Yayasan Lebah Nusantara, Indonesia
Yayasan Pusaka, Indonesia
Za Zemiata (Friends of the Earth Bulgaria), Bulgaria
Zimbabwe Smallholders Organic Farmers Forum
(ZIMSOFF), Zimbabwe

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