Bioenergy within the UK – an enormous 12% of our present power combine – principally comes from burning wooden, with thousands and thousands of tonnes imported from forests all over the world. Industrial burning of wooden for electrical energy releases extra greenhouse gases than coal, however it’s presently rated as zero carbon in UK power coverage. Reducing down forests or rising giant areas of power crops not solely threatens local weather, however nature and meals safety too. Nevertheless a brand new report, by the RSPB and 3Keel, has revealed extra sustainable sources exist already right here within the UK. The UK Authorities is about to suggest a brand new Biomass Technique this yr. Now’s the proper time for them to decide to low-risk sources of home-grown biomass which might ship as much as 4% of the UK’s major power by 2050, far decrease than our present reliance, the RSPB says.
The RSPB, together with 3Keel, has at the moment printed new evaluation that exhibits logging forests for power, or carpeting the countryside in power crops, places nature, local weather and meals manufacturing in danger. But, with out motion from the Authorities, these sources might be closely relied upon for the UK’s future bioenergy provide within the race to web zero.
The contribution of those high-risk supplies to our power provide, based on the report, needs to be restricted and changed with sustainable wastes, like gasoline from landfills or supplies generated whereas managing woodlands for wildlife. It will cut back the impacts bioenergy can have on nature and our local weather, with the evaluation from the RSPB and 3Keel additionally predicting that these low-risk sources may ship as much as 4% of the UK’s major power by 2050.
Pied Flycatcher, copyright Glyn Sellors, from the surfbirds galleries
Nevertheless, at the moment, the overwhelming majority of biomass electrical energy right here within the UK comes from burning wooden pellets, primarily sourced and imported from forests within the south jap USA. Drax energy plant, the UK’s single largest CO2 emitter, has acquired billions of kilos of public cash in renewable power subsidies and tax breaks to burn this wooden, regardless that it releases extra CO2 into the environment than coal.
Not solely this, however impartial information organisations and environmental teams have documented the impact that wooden pellet harvesting is having on essential forest habitats. Many of those forests are residence to declining or uncommon species of birds and different wildlife, and the logging of abroad forests to burn for UK power use dangers damaging the habitats and ecosystems this wildlife is determined by.
Alternatively, a number of the most sustainable supplies for bioenergy, based on the RSPB, may come from managing its 222 nature reserves right here within the UK, as Jenna Hegarty, Head of Land, Seas and Local weather Coverage from the charity, describes: “Right here on the RSPB, managing our nature reserves for the advantage of wildlife may also present probably the most sustainable supply of biomass out there that advantages nature and the local weather, not harms it.
“Whether or not it’s reed cuttings from reedbeds, that are conserved for the advantage of species like bitterns, otters and cranes, outdated gorse and bracken that has been faraway from heathlands to learn Dartford warblers and woodlarks, or wooden taken from managed woodlands to permit species like pied flycatcher and wooden warbler to make a lot wanted recoveries, our much-loved pure areas may present a number of the most sustainable supplies for bioenergy right here within the UK.
With the Authorities wanting way more land to be protected and managed for nature sooner or later, there’s actual scope to make use of real wastes from nature reserves to contribute to the nation’s power wants, while squarely recognising that bioenergy’s position can solely be a small a part of the combination.
The Authorities additionally desires to make use of much more bioenergy sooner or later to satisfy web zero targets, together with with unproven expertise that would seize and retailer the carbon dioxide created when burning biomass. Nevertheless, that is fraught with dangers.
Staggeringly, international fashions counsel that if this expertise – Bioenergy with Carbon Seize and Storage – depends on burning crops, it can want nearly half of the world’s present cropland, masking an space of 1.2 billion hectares, to satisfy hypothetical projections.
This would cut back area for meals, squeeze out nature, drain finite water sources, pollute our countryside with fertilisers and pesticides, and threaten communities’ entry to land. The RSPB report launched at the moment questions whether or not this nation, and the world, can afford to carpet the countryside with bioenergy crops.
Jenna Hegarty from the RSPB continues: “Blanketing our countryside in power crops dangers squeezing out each nature and meals manufacturing, whereas holding forests standing is essential to storing carbon and serving to nature.
It’s time for a bioenergy coverage that helps nature and the local weather, not damages it. Taking a chainsaw and a match to the world’s forests when we’ve different, cleaner methods to maintain the lights on like photo voltaic and wind energy is insanity.
“Now’s the time to restrict bioenergy to safe, nature-friendly, home-grown sources, corresponding to real wastes from nature reserves, and to give attention to clear and sustainable renewables like photo voltaic and wind in concord with nature. The Authorities’s forthcoming Biomass Technique is an opportunity to pour chilly water on burning nature-rich forests and crops that would in any other case feed individuals, ditching plans that threaten nature and switching as an alternative to a bioenergy coverage that helps our struggling wildlife and aligns with web zero plans within the face of the Nature and Local weather Emergency.”
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