On Thursday, a group of 500+ scientists urged world leaders to stop policies that put burning trees for energy on a pedestal because it poses a double climate problem that both threatens the forests' biodiversity and efforts to stem Earth's ecological emergency.

Wood Burning
(Photo : Photo by Guduru Ajay bhargav from Pexels)

A demand letter was addressed to the European Council President Charles Michel, the European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyem, U.S President Joi Biden, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

Signatories of the letter include world-renowned botanist Dr Peter Raven, president emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden--reject the assertion that burning biomass is carbon neutral.

Demand to Stop Tree Burning

Scientists asked many to sign a petition by February 9 to further strengthen calls for government action and revision on current trends on incentivizing power plants.


Referring to forest "restoration and prevention" as key in meeting the declared goals of nations' of carbon neutrality by 2050, the letter frames the slashing of trees for bioenergy as "misguided."

The group wrote, "We urge you not to undermine both climate goals and the world's biodiversity by shifting from burning fossil fuels to burning trees to generate energy."

The forests' destruction, which are carbon sinks, creates a carbon debt. On the other hand, though regrowing trees and the displacement of fossil fuels may eventually pay off carbon debt, scientists say that regrowth takes time, and the world doesn't have that luxury to solve the climate crisis.

In addition, burning trees is carbon-inefficient.

Signatories say, "Overall, for each kilowatt-hour of heat or electricity produced, using wood initially is likely to add two to three times as much carbon to the air as using fossil fuels." 

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Issues in Burning Biomass for Electricity

Another issue is taxpayer money being used to sustain biomass burning that should have been allocated for renewable energy policies.

The letter states, "Government subsidies for burning wood create a double climate problem because this false solution is replacing real carbon reduction,"

The letter states that companies are slowly transitioning from fossil fuel to wood, which increases risks, damage, and warming. As a substitute, the government should advocate for shifts to solar and wind energy that would truly decrease warming.

Signatories also denounce further troubling proposals of burning palm oil and soybean, which would only worsen deforestation to make way for palm and soy crops.

Scientists add that merely making nations responsible for emissions from land-use changes isn't enough to quell the incentives governments create for power plants and factories to burn wood.

Due to this, the letter calls on various governments to end policies and measures including subsidies that propel biomass burning.

The letter states that trees are simply more valuable alive than dead both for the climate and for biodiversity.

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