UK Clean Growth Strategy based on dangerous illusions and false solutions – bioenergy

London 12 October 2017

From Biofuelwatch[1]

For immediate release.

The Government’s Clean Growth Strategy relies on growth of technologies that are not clean and one that is not feasible.

The Clean Growth Strategy[2] speaks throughout of ‘sustainable biomass’, ‘clean’ bio-energy, low-carbon biomass boilers… There are many scientific reports[3], including the government’s own Biomass Emissions and Counterfactual study[4], which show that bio-energy commonly produces as much or more greenhouse gases than the fossil fuels it replaces, as well as damaging forests and biodiversity and polluting communities.

The Strategy is based on a 36% increase in the use of these fuels by 2032. This would include ‘a near doubling of sustainable biofuels used in the transport sector’. It also envisages energy-intensive heavy industry switching to biomass.

This will result in actual emissions increases and actual climate warming. But because the government, under its own rules and the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, can count all bio-energy as carbon neutral it doesn’t have to count these emissions. What is counted as meeting carbon and renewable energy targets is actually making climate change (and environmental degradation) worse.

Frances Howe of Biofuelwatch said, “The government has not understood that bio-energy is a dangerous ‘false solution’ that is high-carbon, polluting and an excuse to continue with business-as-usual burning.”

One of the three pathways to decarbonisation by 2050 proposed in the Strategy is the ‘Emissions removal pathway’ better known as Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS). This was the subject of a major report by Biofuelwatch[5], produced for the Paris climate talks in 2015, that showed that, despite being a major part of proposals to keep warming below 2⁰C, BECCS is no more to be relied on than carbon munching aliens.

Biomass is not low carbon in the first place and the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology is unreliable, inefficient, energy intensive and so expensive that it is commercially un-scaleable – without which it cannot play a part in major decarbonisation.

There is no evidence of the government being willing to fund more biomass electricity generation which would be dependent on imports of biomass. Adding CCS to that would mean at least 1/3 extra biomass would need to be burned, with all the resulting impacts on carbon sinks and biodiversity – and the extra cost. The government withdrew £1bn funding promised for CCS in 2015 saying that it “isn’t working”. It still isn’t working and can never work at the commercial scale necessary to deliver these ambitions.

Almuth Ernsting of Biofuelwatch (co-author of the BECCS report) said: “BECCS is not a credible proposal. Nobody will ever do it. The government is hiding the inadequacies of its greenhouse gas reduction commitments by talking about non-existent ways of removing carbon we’ll keep emitting from the atmosphere.”



Duncan Law 07958 635181


[1]  Biofuelwatch provides information, advocacy and campaigning in relation to the climate, environmental, human rights and public health impacts of large-scale industrial bioenergy