NGOs, policy makers and industry analysists have predicted that Europe’s fast-growing demand for wood pellets and woodchips for bioenergy will increasingly be through imports from the global South – especially from Africa and South America (especially Brazil). There are serious concerns that such a trend will exacerbate land-grabbing in those regions.
This report examines the evidence for investments which may lead to increased wood biomass imports from the global South to Europe and for any related land acquisitions. Its findings may at first sight appear contradictory: On the one hand, there is no evidence of any of the substantial investments being made which would be required if countries in the global South were to start exporting significant quantities of woodchips or pellets for energy to Europe. Instead, the southern US, Canada and other European countries, including Russia, are set to continue expanding their wood bioenergy supplies to Europe and thus to continue sacrificing their forests for EU biomass. On the other hand, there is compelling evidence of land-grabs for monoculture tree plantations in Africa and Brazil being justified, by companies, by citing the growing EU biomass demand. Even without actual EU imports from those regions, the expectation of rising EU wood demand and likely higher global wood prices alone is sufficient to exacerbate landgrabbing for tree plantations.