The Back Biomass campaign has hit back at report claims that Government plans to subsidise wood-fired power stations will increase carbon emissions.
Campaign chiefs claim biomass is a renewable, low-carbon fuel and generating electricity and heat from biomass is an increasingly important tool in the fight against climate change.
They say if biomass fuel is sustainably sourced, it should have a beneficial impact on forest management and lead to a substantial saving in greenhouse gas emissions across the supply chain compared to fossil fuels.
That is in stark contrast to a report released on Monday from the RSPB, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, which reported that power stations that burn trees as biomass fuel can be more damaging to the environment than coal-fired generating plants.
Now, Paul Thompson, Head of Policy at the REA and speaking on behalf of the Back Biomass campaign, said: "Even when we factor in the biomass supply chain, which includes shipping and processing, its carbon footprint is dwarfed by coal. This is a key part of the criteria the Government uses to regulate the industry.
“It’s also wrong to claim that biomass leads to ‘carbon debt’. This argument ignores a number of realities about how forests are managed and the types of wood and crops that produce biomass feedstock.
“With sustainable forestry and the use of a mixture of biomass sources, carbon debt can be avoided altogether. Many forests around the world are actually in carbon credit as a result of better management linked to biomass energy use.
“In fact, biomass goes hand-in-hand with sustainable forestry practices that have contributed to a global rise in forest cover over the past 20 years. It’s a renewable fuel source that outperforms fossil fuels on a host of measurable benefits”
His statement explained that when wood or plant material is burned, the carbon released into the atmosphere has only been locked away for the lifetime of that tree or plant. If cultivation of biomass is sustainably managed, the same amount of carbon should be reabsorbed, keeping carbon levels in the atmosphere stable. In contrast, burning fossil fuels releases carbon that would otherwise have stayed locked underground. This carbon stays in the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.
And it claimed the UK biomass industry is at the forefront of developing sustainability criteria which should recognise existing high environmental standards in the biomass supply chain and encourage them elsewhere.