The Scottish Government has been warned that burning trees is not a realistic solution to climate change. Environment and conservation groups have written to Ministers to share their grave concerns about plans to generate energy by burning trees and crops while trying to capture the emissions produced – known as Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS).

The speculative technology, which is unproven at the scale imagined in the UK, is currently being considered by the Scottish Government as part of its plans to meet its climate targets in both 2030 and the ‘net-zero’ target for 2045. Campaigners fear that the need for trees to burn will endanger mature forests or see a rush towards huge monoculture plantations of fuel trees – increasing existing pressures on land and providing little habitat for wildlife.

The Government’s advisors from the UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC) have previously suggested that Scotland could grow and supply around 33% of all UK biomass. Later this year, the Scottish Government will produce a BioEnergy Action Plan alongside their Energy Strategy. The Climate Change Plan, which has been delayed due to coronavirus, will also spell out how they will meet the increased targets set in last year’s Climate Act.

The open letter has been signed by Trees for Life, Reforesting Scotland, Plantlife, RSPB, Biofuelwatch, Friends of the Earth Scotland and others.

Friends of the Earth Scotland Climate Campaigner Jess Cowell commented,

“These dangerous plans to burn trees to tackle climate change should be opposed by anyone concerned about responding to the climate and nature emergencies. The Scottish Government should be protecting and expanding diverse, mature forests not planning on burning them as fuel.”

“This highly speculative technology is both environmentally unsustainable and financially reckless and risks conflict over land use between farming, wildlife and forestry. Cutting down trees for short-term energy needs exacerbates the climate crisis because it takes too long for new trees to grow back, and forest ecosystems that are destroyed will not recover for many decades, if ever.

“These far-fetched schemes of burning trees and trying to catch the carbon released risk diverting time, energy and resources away from climate solutions that we know work such as increased home insulation and energy efficiency, renewable heat, public transport and rapidly reducing our use of fossil fuels.”

Alistair Whyte, Head of Plantlife Scotland commented,

“Tackling the climate emergency is inextricably linked with nature’s recovery – we can’t solve one without the other. Yet BECCS technology risks further destruction of the world’s forests and their extraordinary wealth of plants, lichens and fungi. While Scotland can be proud of its temperate rainforest and other ancient woodlands, the Government must also play its part in forest protection on the global stage.”

Sally Clark, UK Bioenergy Campaigner for Biofuelwatch commented,

“Burning trees for energy in existing UK power stations is already causing the clear-felling of biodiverse forests in Europe and the Southern USA at a terrible cost to wildlife, communities and the climate.

“If this risky technology ever became feasible and was given the go-ahead in Scotland, it would lead to even more logging of forests, biodiversity loss and the conversion of land to monoculture plantations. One of the best ways for us to keep global temperature rises below 1.5 degrees is to protect and restore our existing forests, not burn them for electricity in power stations.”

ENDS


NOTES TO EDITORS

“Our organisations are deeply concerned about the possibility of Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) being developed in Scotland and included in the forthcoming Climate Change Plan update. BECCS technologies to capture carbon dioxide from burning biomass remain technically and economically unproven and there is no clear evidence that they can ever be implemented sustainably.”
Open Letter to Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham and Minister Paul Wheelhouse: https://foe.scot/resource/letter-of-concern-to-scottish-government-about-bioenergy-with-carbon-capture-and-storage-beccs/

This story was published in the Sunday Times today (20/9/20) https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/scottish-ministers-urged-to-drop-disruptive-beccs-biomass-plans-kbhbhjz6n

Today (20/9/20) is the first anniversary of the Global Climate Strike of 2019 which are the largest climate protests in Scottish history https://foe.scot/press-release/climate-strike-anniversary-reminds-us-of-public-demand-for-climate-action/

“Net Zero: The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming”
UK Committee on Climate Change Report May 2019 (p168) which states that Scotland has “has excellent potential to grow and supply around 33% of all UK biomass.”
https://www.theccc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Net-Zero-The-UKs-contribution-to-stopping-global-warming.pdf

The Scottish Energy Strategy includes a commitment to develop a Bioenergy Action Plan to set out a strategic pathway for developing bioenergy within the Scottish energy system.
https://www.gov.scot/policies/renewable-and-low-carbon-energy/bioenergy-action-plan/

Friends of the Earth Scotland is:
* Scotland’s leading environmental campaigning organisation
* An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland
* Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 75 national member groups, and 5,000 local activist groups.
www.foe.scot