- With the U.N. climate summit (COP26) in its second week, Earth is on track to warm by 2.7° Celsius (4.86° Fahrenheit) by 2100, a catastrophic forecast based on projected carbon emissions. However, analysts say that those projections exclude major emissions currently escaping from biomass-burning power plants.
- A carbon accounting loophole in global climate change policy classifies burning woody biomass for energy as “carbon neutral,” and is accepted by the U.N. and many of the world’s nations. But scientists have proven otherwise, even as the forestry industry gets massive subsidies to produce millions of tons of wood pellets annually.
- Those subsidies are fueling rapid growth of the biomass industry, as forests are cut in the U.S., Canada, Eastern Europe, Russia, Vietnam, and Malaysia. The E.U. and U.K. are the largest biomass energy market, but with rapid expansion now occurring in Japan and South Korea, the biomass boom is just beginning.
- Scientists and activists say that to avoid disastrous global warming impacts, forest large biomass subsidies must end, which will make the industry unprofitable and free up funding for real climate solutions. But the topic is not even on the COP26 agenda, and action on the biomass burning issue anytime soon seems unlikely.
Representatives from 192 nations continue meeting in Glasgow, Scotland, at COP26 this week in hopes of making deals to save humanity, cool the planet, and salvage their nations’ reputations.
However, absent from the conference agenda are discussions of carbon accounting loopholes that scientists say are dangerously underreporting emissions and speeding climate change. An overlooked issue is forest biomass: burning wood to produce energy. Despite research proving otherwise, the practice continues to be called carbon neutral by nations and the forestry industry, allowing significant greenhouse gas emissions to go uncounted.