Climate activists stage musical protest over Government proposals for new tree-burning subsidies

Biofuelwatch and Stop Burning Trees Press Release

For immediate release 

Climate justice campaigners from across the UK environmental movement gathered outside the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ)1 in London today in a colourful and musical demo calling on the Government not to renew subsidies for burning wood in Drax Power Station in Yorkshire and Lynemouth Power Station in Northumberland.

Campaigners from groups including Biofuelwatch, Stop Burning Trees, Friends of the Earth, Extinction Rebellion, Money Rebellion, Fossil Free London, Campaign Against Climate Change, Stop Rosebank and Greenpeace joined together to say a loud ‘No’ to Government proposals to grant new subsidies from UK energy bills to companies that burn trees for electricity.2 

Speakers included Baroness Jenny Jones of Moulsecoomb and Doug Parr, Policy Director for Greenpeace. Banners reading ‘DESNZ: Stop Funding Forest Destruction’ and ‘Stop Burning Trees’ were hung up outside DESNZ. 

In January, the UK Government launched a consultation on extending subsidies for burning wood, with the Impact Assessment suggesting that the highest likely amount of subsidies could be up to £2.5 billion per year for Drax and Lynemouth (the only two generators eligible), and no clear end date mentioned in the consultation for the proposed new subsidies.3

There has been strong opposition to the Government’s proposals for new wood-burning subsidies from NGOs4, MPs5, scientists6 and the general public. Campaigners argue that if these subsidies are approved, the UK could be locked into many years of tree burning, at huge cost to forests, wildlife7, communities and the climate. Last week, a BBC investigation exposed Drax for continuing to source wood from rare primary forests in British Columbia.8

Katy Brown, Bioenergy Campaigner for Biofuelwatch, said: “It’s a disgrace this government is even considering giving more of our money to Drax, the UK’s single biggest carbon emitter and the world’s biggest tree burner. If they go ahead after these new revelations about Drax yet again being caught out sourcing from primary old-growth forest in Canada, they are making it clear they do not care about forests, communities or the planet. 

“Wherever Drax sources its wood animals, wildlife, biodiversity and local communities are harmed. To have any hope of reducing harmful climate change we need to stop emissions from burning things now. There should be absolutely no more subsidies for tree burning in power stations. We need investment in genuine renewables and climate action, not corporate scams.” 

Drax, the larger of the two power stations set to benefit, is the UK’s single largest carbon emitter, and world’s biggest tree burner.9 The company currently receives around £1.7 million per day in renewable subsidies from UK energy bills to burn wood.10  

Dr Doug Parr, Policy Director for Greenpeace UK, said: “Clear cutting forests in order to burn them has never been seen as environmentally friendly, for all of the obvious reasons. When you add on the impacts of pellet processing, which disproportionately exposes communities of colour to toxic air pollution, there’s very little green about the UK’s biomass programme.

“The energy sector needs to move on from burning things and embrace the incredibly efficient and versatile renewable technologies that just get cheaper and cheaper, wind and solar. Now that energy storage has joined renewables on their plunging price trajectory, there are few arguments left for thermal power plants burning fossil fuels or uranium, and certainly not when they burn protected ecosystems.”

In the Southern USA, Drax has been accused of ‘driving environmental racism’ due to the harmful air pollution emitted by its pellet production.11 

Katherine Egland, Deputy Director of the Education, Economics, Environmental, Climate and Health Organization and Chair of the Environmental and Climate Justice Committee for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People National Board, said:

Our U.S. government must end the sacrifice of the vulnerable Black communities in the Southeast who’re being exposed to deadly levels of chemicals to manufacture wood pellets to be burned for energy in other countries. Our own government must not be complicit in aiding and abetting the environmentally racist assaults committed by UK-based Drax. 

“What Drax is doing to our communities would be illegal in the UK. Why are we allowing Drax’s greed driven annihilation of communities of color here in the U.S.?  Burning forests for fuel is not only foolish, but dangerous to people and planet. We need to transition to clean, safe carbon-free renewable energy.’” 

Drax and Lynemouth are both supplied by Enviva, which regularly obtains wood from the clearing of extremely biodiverse coastal hardwood forests.12 Campaigners argue that extending the subsidies would continue the harm caused to forests, communities and the planet by the wood biomass industry. 

Notes for Editors


2. Government consultation on whether to grant new subsidies to wood-burning power stations when their current subsidies end in 2027. The consultation closed on the 29th of February 2024: Transitional support mechanism for large-scale biomass electricity generators – GOV.UK 


Cut Carbon Not Forests Briefing about the consultation proposals: CCNF-Briefing-on-Extending-subsidies-for-large-scale-biomass-generators-Feb-2024.pdf ( 

4. More than 50 UK and international campaign groups – including Greenpeace, the RSPB and Friends of the Earth – signed letters sent to the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero last week, calling on the Government not to grant new subsidies for burning trees. Government urged to end subsidies as Drax accused of burning old forest wood | The Independent 

5. 30 MPs have signed a cross-party letter requesting a meeting with the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero to discuss the Government’s proposals for new subsidies for wood burning in power stations:

6. Over 165 scientists from universities around the world have signed a letter opposing Government proposals for new biomass subsidies to the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ): 

7. Global Markets for Biomass Energy are Devastating U.S. Forests, NRDC, Southern Environmental Law Center, Dogwood Alliance, June 2023 edition: , 

8. Drax: UK power station still burning rare forest wood’: 

Investigation report: 

9. Drax is the UK’s single largest carbon emitter. The power station emitted over 12 million tonnes of CO2 in 2022: 

10. During 2022, Drax obtained £606.8 million in renewable electricity subsidies. This translates into subsidies of £1.66m every day for Drax’s wood burning. 

11. Drax accused of driving ‘environmental racism’ after further pollution claims against wood pellet mills in US deep south 

12. Whistleblower: Enviva claim of ‘being good for the planet… all nonsense’, Justin Catanoso, Mongabay, 5th December 2022