Newsletter June 2020

We have a packed newsletter for you this month with lots to cover, update you on and campaigns for you to lend your voice to. In this update you will find: 

  1. Coronavirus Update from Biofuelwatch
  2. Campaign success: no future subsidies for new biomass power stations
  3. Open Letter to transfer existing subsidies from tree-burning to renewables
  4. #AxeDrax: Campaign updates:
    • Love Trees, #Axe Drax online action: 22nd April 
    • New #AxeDrax Group 
    • #AxeDrax online action on UN’s Biodiversity Day: 22nd May 2020
  5. Update from California: Covid puts breaks on push for negative emissions technologies
  6. The campaign against BlackRock continues…
  7. Biofuelwatch joins the Build Back Better and Just & Green Recovery Scotland campaigns
  8. Polluters Out Petition
  9. Burned screenings
  10. Exciting success from the University of Sheffield Clean Energy Switch campaign

Coronavirus Update from Biofuelwatch

We hope that you and your friends and family are all keeping safe and well in these very difficult times and we send our very best wishes. If you either need extra support from your community during the crisis, or can offer help to others, there are a number of mutual aid groups around the country, you can find out more by clicking the links below:

At Biofuelwatch, we are continuing to speak out for forests and for all our futures using online tools, and thanks to your incredible support, we have some very exciting campaign updates to share with you this month. 

Campaign success: no future subsidies for new biomass power stations

We start off with some very exciting news about an important campaign success. We would like to send a huge thank you to everyone who took part in the Government consultation or contacted your MP to ensure that future renewable subsidies are not given to new tree-burning power stations

Thanks to your support for the campaign, we have received a letter from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to say that they will be keeping the higher environmental standards for biomass subsidies. This means that new large import-dependent biomass power stations will effectively be prevented from bidding for future renewable subsidies. These subsidies will instead be able to go to cleaner renewables such as wind and solar power. 

Open Letter to transfer existing subsidies from tree-burning to renewables

However, the work continues to redirect around £1 billion in existing renewable subsidies from tree burning in power stations like Drax to genuinely lower-carbon renewables, including wind and solar power. Drax alone receives £2.1 million per day in renewable subsidies which are paid for through a surcharge on our energy bills. 

To take action, we have an Open Letter for community, environmental, trade union and health groups to ask the Government to transfer these subsidies from tree burning to renewables. We are also part of an exciting new coalition campaign calling on MPs to help protect forests from industrial tree burning and we will be sharing news about the campaign launch very soon!

#AxeDrax update

Online action on 22nd April: Thank you very much to everyone who took part in the Love Trees, #AxeDrax online action on the 22nd of April during Drax Power Station’s Annual General Meeting. We were sad not to come together for a protest in real life, but this was the next best thing: a physically distanced action celebrating our love of the forests and trees which are threatened by Drax’s wood burning. You can see more of the wonderful pictures and videos from the day here

Thank you to everyone who took part and shared your fantastic #LoveNature and #AxeDrax pictures. Campaigners from XR York also carried out a physically-distanced Drax protest in York to highlight Drax’s impact on biodiversity. To find out more and to get involved in the next Drax online action, please contact You can also find the group on instagram here

New #AxeDrax group: If you would like to get involved in planning more Drax actions, there is a wonderful new #AxeDrax group which is organised by XR York and XR North. Everyone is welcome to join the group and they have regular online meetings every Monday at 6pm. 

UN Biodiversity Day on 22nd May: Biofuelwatch was delighted to join the group’s #AxeDrax online action on the UN’s Biodiversity Day on the 22nd of May to share our love for the amazing wildlife in Southern US forests which is under threat from the clear-felling of trees to make wood pellets for Drax. 

Update from California: Covid puts breaks on push for negative emissions technologies

The California State Legislature suspended activities this spring 2020 due to the multi-faceted impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. After an extended halt to committee hearings and other legislative proceedings the legislature has now embarked upon an abbreviated calendar. Legal requirements have necessarily focused attention on the approval of a state budget. Recent grassroots uprisings and mobilizations on racial justice and an end to police brutality has also forced the legislature to further shift their scope for the remainder of the session.

A result of these developments is the abandonment of one bill that our organization had flagged as extremely problematic, the deceptively named “Keep Carbon in The Ground” legislation from Senator Nancy Skinner and Assembly member Cristina Garcia (SB 1323). Legislative staff have informed Biofuelwatch that the bill will not be advancing this session.

The bill was actually set for hearing in the Senate Environmental Quality Committee for April 1, prior to the subsequent suspension of the legislature in March. As described in the article linked above, the substance of this bill had been the primary focus of a February 3 hearing of the Joint Legislative Committee on Climate Change Policies. As well as celebrating a proposed bioenergy focused ‘negative emissions’ system for the state, as well as the exaggerated prospects of liquid cellulosic biofuels. this hearing also focused strongly on celebrating ‘natural climate solutions,’ seemingly unfazed by the lack of distinction between the invention of technology for ‘artificial sequestration’ and evolved ecosystems. There were no critical voices invited to provide formal testimony during the hearing, though there were repeated public comments articulating concern with the state support for biomass energy as a default option for agency driven climate policy.

The significance of the pandemic derailing of legislative processes groomed by vested interests to advance a ‘negative emissions’ agenda is telling when put in the context of recent California climate politics. Particularly relevant was the endorsement in September 2019, by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) of the highly controversial California Tropical Forest Standard. The standard was designed as a framework for the monetization of carbon from tropical forests, one of the more celebrated of the highly publicized ‘natural climate solutions’, and was approved less than 6 months before the Feb 3, 2020 committee hearing on ‘negative emissions.’ Yet it was not even mentioned during the hearing.

One of the controversies that surrounded the CTFS process was the fact that the same Joint Legislative committee refused to hold an informational hearing, even after more than 30 environmental justice and grassroots groups from around the state wrote to the committee chair requesting that a hearing on the matter be scheduled.

California policy-making has increasingly marginalized the voices of affected communities and their allies, excluding critical voices from the inner workings of policy development. This trend was clearly moving further in the same direction with the legislative proposal to advance an exclusive stakeholder group’s agenda for negative emissions technologies. In the legislative session of 2020 however, something unexpected happened, and the interruption of business as usual has indeed interrupted doing Sacramento business as usual. 

This legislative hiccup is in no way a political victory, but it does give decision makers more time to fully assess the assumptions underpinning those policies regarding ‘negative emissions technologies’, and provides an opportunity to guarantee a more democratic process for decision making to ensure that critical voices are heard and respected. Otherwise California climate policy makers will only make a bad situation worse.

The campaign against BlackRock continues…

In May 2020, we joined with hundreds of organisations worldwide to take online action against the world’s largest asset manager and joint third largest shareholder in Drax Plc, BlackRock, to coincide with its AGM. We took part in a webinar with allies in the Indigenous Environmental NetworkBlackRock’s Big Problem Coalition and many others to learn more about all the different ways communities around the world are resisting projects financed by BlackRock – including residents from North Carolina in the southern US, where biodiverse forests are being replaced with plantations and communities are subjected to noise, air pollution and heavy traffic as well as the loss of their local forests. It was powerful to hear so many voices for environmental justice from around the world and to share information about Drax’s impacts with campaigners from all over the world. 

For more information on BlackRock and its links to Drax and biomass, check out our short briefing and the Open Letter that we and over 30 organisations worldwide sent to BlackRock in March this year.  

Biofulewatch joins the Build Back Better and Just & Green Recovery Scotland campaigns

We are also delighted to be part of two new campaigns for a recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic which supports both people and the planet: Build Back Better UK and the Just and Green Recovery for Scotland campaign. You can sign the petition to the Scottish First Minister here to call for a just and green recovery from the Coronavirus crisis and this page has more information about how to get involved in the UK Build Back Better campaign. 

Polluters Out Petition

Last month, Greenpeace Unearthed revealed that the UK Government has promised BP that it will be a key stakeholder in the UN’s COP26 Climate Summit, which has now been rescheduled to take place in Glasgow in November 2021. Our friends at Glasgow Calls Out Polluters are calling on the UK Government to keep BP and other big polluters out of the UN Climate talks and you can sign the petition here. This is very important for Biofuelwatch as we know that the UK’s biggest polluter and the world’s biggest wood burner, Drax, is planning to attend COP26. 

Burned screenings

XR York are also organising screenings every Sunday in June at 2pm of the award-winning documentary ‘Burned: are trees the new coal?’ with a discussion after the film about how we can help to save forests from tree-burning in power stations like Drax. You can find out more and sign up here. Everyone is welcome! If you are part of a group that would like to organise a screening of the film, please contact us – we can help you get access to the film, and one of the Biofuelwatch team may be able to come for an online discussion after watching. 

Exciting success from the University of Sheffield Clean Energy Switch campaign

After a 2 year campaign, our tenacious friends at the University of Sheffield Clean Energy Switch group have persuaded the university to change its energy supplier. Until recently, the university was buying energy directly from Drax, but has now switched to a company that provides 100% renewable energy. 

This is a fantastic achievement and the group would love to hear from you if you would like help in persuading your university or other institution to switch to clean energy. You can contact them here