Organisations supporting the campaign include the RSPB, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, the Wood Panel Industries Federation, the UK Forest Products Association and international wood product businesses Egger, Kronospan and Norbord. They have jointly written to Government warning that the pursuit of generating electricity from wood threatens to backfire, both in terms of the environment and industry.
The campaign raises concerns over Government plans to subsidise biomass electricity which could see the sector consuming the equivalent of up to six times the UK's annual forestry harvest by 2017, with catastrophic results. The group highlights that this huge new demand for wood will put up prices, risking the survival of existing industries - in wood, wood panels, packaging, construction, furniture and paper - and many of the 40,000 jobs that rely on them.
The green charities are also pointing to a growing body of evidence that suggests that burning wood in power stations for electricity alone, as opposed to efficient combined heat and power (CHP) facilities, can lead to increases in greenhouse gas emissions. Concern is growing too that a large new demand for wood could increase the pressure on woodland wildlife throughout the world.
In a recent press release and letters to Government, the group proposes that the only rational response to these risks is to limit subsidies and thus the amount of wood that can be burnt in individual electricity-only power stations (as opposed to e" cient CHP facilities), and to focus Government support on renewable energy that is genuinely ‘green', such as solar, wind and wave power.
Harry Huyton, RSPB Head of Climate Change, said "Government plans to subsidise the burning of vast quantities of wood in power stations in spite of the threats it poses to our climate and to forests across the world are reckless.
"Today we are appealing to the common sense of MPs debating the Energy Bill and asking them to limit support for electricity from wood and to focus on genuinely green sources of energy instead, such as wind, solar and wave power."
David Workman, Director General of the Confederation of Paper Industries, said "The Paper Industry relies on supplies of wood from sustainably managed forests to manufacture pulp. As global demand for wood-based products rises, it is conceivable that wood could become a scarce resource and we therefore oppose its large scale use as a fuel purely to generate energy."
David Sulman, Executive Director of the UK Forest Products Association said "Forests and woodlands are a unique natural resource providing valuable economic, social and environmental benefits for us all. Burning wood in inefficient large-scale electricity-only power stations, as opposed to efficient combined heat and power plant, squanders this precious resource and puts thousands of jobs in the domestic wood processing sector in jeopardy."
Alistair Kerr, Director General of the Wood Panel Industries Federation, said "Wood processing businesses are an essential component of the UK's transition to the green economy. Energy companies are being heavily subsidised to burn virgin timber, on which these companies rely. This could lead to UK wood processors being forced out of the UK, carbon emissions rising, and the cost UK consumers pay for essential wood products rising significantly."
The RSPB, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace report Dirtier than Coal is available to download at: www.rspb.org.uk/Images/biomass_report_tcm9-326672.pdf
The full list of signatories is:
- Mike Clarke, Executive Director, RSPB
- John Sauven, Executive Director, Greenpeace
- Andy Atkins, Chief Executive, Friends of the Earth
- David Sulman, Executive Director, UK Forest Products Association
- David Workman, Director General, Confederation of Paper Industries
- Bob Livesey, Egger
- Karl Morris, Norbord
- Mike McKenna, Kronospan
- Alistair Kerr, Director General, Wood Panel Industries Federation
- John Dye, President, TIMCON
- Hamish Macleod, Director of Public Affairs, BSW Timber
- John White, CEO, Timber Trade Federation
- Paul von der Heyde, Chairman, British Furniture Confederation
- Jackie Bazeley, Managing Director, British Furniture Manufacturers
- Michael Powell, Chairman, FIRA, Furniture Industry Research Association