Scientists Warn Climate Crisis Will Be Accelerated By Converting Coal Plants To Biomass

The climate crisis could get accelerated instead of it being addressed because of the plan of the European Union to transform the block’s coal plants, which includes the giant Drax complex in North Yorkshire, and generate power by burning wood pellets instead could. Campaigners and scientists warn that this could lead to rapid deforestation equal to half the size of Germany’s Black Forest annually.

According to the climate change thinktank Sandbag, there could be a “staggering” amount of tree cutting, potentially destroying forests faster than they can regrow if the plans to create heavily subsidised plants to cut carbon emissions is implemented.

36m tonnes of wood pellets every year will be required only by the 10 largest biomass conversion projects of Europe alone, Sandbag found. That amount is equivalent to entire wood pellet production of the world currently. That would mean that 2,700 sq km of woodland would be required to be cut down every year which is the same as the half of the Black Forest in Germany.

Charles Moore, the author of the report prepared by thee thinktank, said the pellets to be used on such biomass plants are being planned to be imported from the US and Canada which means that “there’s a huge added environmental cost in transporting the wood from the other side of the Atlantic”.

Sandbag warned that 67m tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere would be emitted by the biomass plants that are being planned and the projects are being headed by Finland, Germany and Netherlands. Scientists also said that is would unlikely be possible to absorb that kind of emission through regrowing of trees in the timescales that have been set for meeting the Paris agreement.

In exchange of such huge impact on the environment, the output of the plants would be able to less than 2 per cent of the to power needs of the EU  which is equivalent to the new power capacity that is installed in Europe every year through other renewable sources such as wind and solar projects.

“It’s impossible to believe coal companies when they argue that the switch burning forests could be good for the climate,” Moore said.

According to regulators of the EU, biomass power production is considered to be a carbon neutral renewable alternative power source and also believe that the scale of new tree plantation would be enough to absorb the amount of carbon that would be emitted by burning of the wood pellets for electricity generation.

Burning forests is “literally the opposite of what we should be doing” to help tackle the climate crisis, said Alex Mason, from WWF’s EU office.

“As 800 scientists pointed out last year, converting coal plants to biomass will increase emissions for decades, if not centuries. This new report is yet more evidence that the EU must use the new EU Green Deal to fix EU bioenergy rules before this ticking time-bomb of a policy does any more damage,” he said.

(Adapted from

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