New Report Reveals Major Threats to Forests and Communities from Bioenergy

Jun 4, 2010

Forest Advocacy groups from three continents released a new report today that reveals the threat bioenergy poses to forests and forest-dependent peoples. The report warns that U.S. plans for wood-based bioenergy, biochar and genetically engineered trees (GE trees) will worsen a dangerous situation.

Bonn, Germany - Global Justice Ecology Project, Global Forest Coalition and Biofuelwatch [1] released Wood-based Bioenergy: The Green Lie, [2] at the UN climate talks today in Bonn, Germany. The report shows that increased support for the burning of wood to produce energy (bioenergy) is triggering increased logging and expansion of industrial tree plantations in the U.S., Ghana, the Congo, Brazil and West Papua. U.S. plans for large-scale expansion of bioenergy and the U.S. Climate Bill promotion of biochar [3], combined with the recent USDA approval of a large-scale release of GE trees in the U.S. South, threaten to devastate forests and communities. The demand for trees for so-called "renewable energy" from wood in the form of wood-fired power stations as well as the co-firing of wood with coal is massively increasing. It will further escalate with an entirely new market for biochar through subsidies and carbon offsets. It coincides with a USDA decision to allow the planting of over a quarter of a million GE eucalyptus trees across seven states in the U.S. South. [4] "In spite of global opposition to GE trees, the USDA has approved planting of 260,000 cold-tolerant eucalyptus trees in the southern U.S.," stated Anne Petermann of Global Justice Ecology Project. "Eucalyptus is invasive, flammable, and depletes water. This will set a dangerous precedent that could lead to large-scale releases of GE versions of native trees like poplars-which would contaminate native forests. Trees spread pollen and seeds for hundreds of miles and once contamination occurs it is irreversible." Wood is projected to become the main source of renewable energy in the U.S., and is already intensifying logging in U.S. forests. GE tree plantations are being promoted on the pretense that they can help meet the fast growing demand for wood, but they pose unacceptable risks including the destruction of native forests to make room for new GE tree plantations. Biochar is also a threat. "The Senate version of the U.S. climate bill, the American Power Act has alarming provisions that will dramatically increase production of biochar," explained Rachel Smolker, of Biofuelwatch in the U.S. "The idea that we can heal the climate by burning trees and burying charcoal is unfounded, untested and dangerous. A letter to Congress from 90 top scientists this past week challenged industry claims that burning trees for energy is 'carbon neutral.'" Fiu Elisara Mata'ese, Director of the Samoan NGO Ole Siosiomaga Society expressed his concerns about the impacts that this new demand for wood will have on Indigenous Peoples: "Large scale demand from the North will have serious impacts on Indigenous communities, that will lose their forests to legal and illegal logging, as well as conversion to tree plantations. The argument that these plantations will be on 'marginal' lands, and will not compete with peoples' livelihoods or food production is false. So-called 'Marginal' lands play a vital role in rural people's livelihoods, providing medicinal plants, grazing, food and shelter." "As the U.S. and other nations turn to burning plants for energy, changing use of land will have global ramifications," stated Simone Lovera, Executive Director of Global Forest Coalition. "For example, agricultural lands are shifting to grow bioenergy crops instead of food. New agricultural lands come at the expense of forests. The process ends with displacement of forest dependent Indigenous Peoples and massive land grabs. Wood-based bioenergy is an absolutely false solution to climate change." Contact: Anne Petermann, Global Justice Ecology Project +1.802.578.0477 (in Bonn, Germany) Orin Langelle, Global Justice Ecology Project, +1.802.578.6980 (in the U.S.)

Notes:
[1] Global Justice Ecology Project (GJEP) www.globaljusticeecology.org is a U.S.-based group working nationally and globally to explore and expose the intertwined root causes of social injustice, ecological destruction and economic domination. GJEP coordinates the STOP GE Trees Campaign www.nogetrees.org . Biofuelwatch www.biofuelwatch.org.uk campaigns against industrial bioenergy in the U.S. and Europe. Global Forest Coalition: www.globalforestcoalition.org is a worldwide network of NGOs and Indigenous Peoples' Organizations from over 35 countries on 6 continents, working on rights-based forest policy.

[2] To download the report "Wood Based Bioenergy: The Green Lie" go to: http://www.globalforestcoalition.org/news/view/197 For more information on bioenergy: http://www.globalforestcoalition.org/paginas/view/244

[3] Biochar is fine-grained charcoal added to soils. It is a byproduct of a form of bioenergy production called pyrolysis. Advocates claim that biochar can help raise soil fertility and mitigate climate change, but there is no clear evidence to back up these claims. There is evidence, however, that biochar could damage soils and climate, accelerate logging and increase demand for industrial tree plantations.

[4] For more information on the USDA approval of genetically engineered eucalyptus trees: http://www.globaljusticeecology.org/pressroom.php?ID=398 P.O. 412 Hinesburg, VT 05461 US