A former Vice Chairman of the United Nations’ climate advisory body has called on the British government to review its policies surrounding the burning of wood for energy.
Jean-Pascal van Ypersele de Strihou, professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of Louvain in Belgium, has said that subsidies given to the industry by the UK government contradict the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, which was signed by countries in 2015 to try to limit global warming. The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy says subsidies are only given to biomass which complies with strict sustainability criteria and biomass is a “valuable” part of the National Grid. But Mr Van Ypersele, who was vice chairman of the IPCC — the body which assesses science on climate change — says burning wood pellets for fuel creates a ‘carbon debt’ and accounting rules don’t properly take into consideration the time it takes for replacement trees to grow back. The UK is the world’s biggest importer of wood pellets.
In the move away from coal over recent years there has been a switch towards burning biomass to generate power, which is classed as renewable energy: Last year in the UK, biomass powered 6.5% of the National Grid. Thee UK government has committed subsidies to the industry until 2027. Mr Van Ypersele said: “To subsidise an activity that has negative consequences for the climate and the environment is totally contradictory with the goals of the Paris Agreement.”