Biomass as zero-emissions energy source – explained EU style

In the realm of global climate policies, the European Union (EU) stands out for its meticulously crafted strategies. Yet, amidst this sophistication, the intricacies of certain aspects, such as the “zero-emissions” factor in the EU Emissions Trading System (EU-ETS) for sustainable wood-based biomass, often lead to widespread misconceptions.

Commonly referred to as “zero-rating,” this policy does not imply that emissions from wood-based biomass are disregarded. Instead, the EU-ETS assigns a zero-emissions rating to wood-based biomass because its emissions are already factored into the Land-Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector, accounting for changes in forest carbon stocks.

Diving into the rationale behind this approach, the first key consideration is the avoidance of double counting. By registering wood-based biomass emissions in both the LULUCF sector and the energy sector, a scenario of double counting would emerge.

Furthermore, allocating emissions to the LULUCF sector proves more accurate. The diverse origins of wood-based biomass used in energy create challenges in precise accounting within the energy sector. Contrasting a recently harvested forest residue with post-consumer wood harvested decades earlier illustrates the complexity. The LULUCF sector’s annual change in carbon stocks covers all emissions without requiring intricate ex-post adjustments.

Thirdly, international bodies such as the IEA, IPCC, and EU Commission advocate for increased use of modern bioenergy to achieve net-zero targets. Imposing a price on wood-based biomass in the energy sector could act as a disincentive, hindering climate goals and favoring fossil fuels.

Importantly, the EU’s decision to account for wood-based biomass in the LULUCF sector aligns with international standards, as highlighted by the EU Commission’s Joint Research Centre. This approach mirrors guidelines set by the IPCC and UNFCCC for national GHG inventories and the Paris Agreement’s accounting principles.

Greg Marland from Oak Ridge National Laboratory underscores the deliberate nature of this choice, emphasizing the IPCC’s comprehensive consideration of emissions from fossil fuels and changes in biological stocks of carbon.

The zero-rating is contingent on sustainable sourcing, ensuring stable or growing carbon stocks in forests. The Renewable Energy Directive places caps on supply chain emissions for installations using biomass within the EU-ETS. It mandates compliance with sustainability criteria, ensuring the regeneration of harvested areas, maintenance or improvement of long-term production capacity, and the implementation of proper accounting, laws, or management practices to preserve carbon stocks and sink levels.

In essence, the zero-rating for sustainable biomass in the EU-ETS is a logical, well-researched decision grounded in internationally accepted accounting methods. Beyond the environmental benefits, it serves as an economic incentive for forest owners to maintain forests as forests, steering us closer to a fossil-free future. Rejecting the zero-rating could lead to resource waste, make forested land less attractive to preserve, and impede progress toward a sustainable, fossil-free future.

#fossilfree #biomass #woodpellet #netzero

Sourced from Andrew Georgiou in Biomassa Feiten