December 5, 2016

The EU is engaged in ‘Greenwashing’

The EU is engaged in ‘Greenwashing’

The European Union is awash in greenwashing, environmentalists say. Photo Credit: Flickr

The European Union is a world-leader in environmentally sound policies and practices. Or is it? The grouping has long portrayed itself as a leader in conservationism, but that self-image is deeply flawed, environmentalists stress, when it comes to the continent’s green energy policies.

“The EU gets 65 per cent of its renewable energy from biofuels – mainly wood – but it is failing to ensure this bioenergy comes from sustainable sources, and results in less emissions than burning fossil fuels,” the journal New Scientist explains in an article poignantly titled “Europe’s green energy policy is a disaster for the environment.” Some of the EU’s policies “are leading to deforestation, biodiversity loss and putting more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than burning coal,” the journal notes.

In other words, the EU might as well be burning coal, not wood, considering the amount of harm its current energy policy causes to the environment. “Burning forest biomass on an industrial scale for power and heating has proved disastrous,” Linde Zuidema, a bioenergy campaigner for Fern, a forest protection group in Europe, told the scientific journal. “The evidence that its growing use will increase emissions and destroy forests in Europe and elsewhere is overwhelming.”

The European Commission’s new draft “clean energy” package, which covers the period until 2030, looks good on paper at a glance, but a closer inspection reveals serious flaws in it. “It’s almost worse than doing nothing,” Sini Erajaa, the bioenergy policy officer for BirdLife Europe & Central Asia, stressed.

To wit: The EU takes it as a given that burning biomass leads to fewer greenhouse gas emissions than does burning fossil fuels, which the grouping believes allows it to stay carbon neutral. That’s because the EU assumes that burning biomass produces zero CO2, seeing as it argues that growing plants absorb the exact amount of CO2 that is then emitted when they are burned.

However, this assumption is flawed because burning wood can result in higher emissions than burning coal. Worse: burning wood whole-scale has led to extensive deforestation across the continent and farther afield with even allegedly protected forests in Slovakia and Italy being felled for fuel. This means that the EU is inflicting plenty of harm on the continent’s environment. The solution, environmentalists say, is to reduce the continent’s reliance on forest bioenergy.

Such concerns also apply to Malaysia, where energy policies (often driven by allegedly progressive causes like “sustainable economic development”) can mask a welter of environmental issues from deforestation to extensive habitat loss through the construction of dams.


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