Large-scale bioenergy must be excluded from the renewable energy definition

30 November 2015

We, the signatories of this declaration, are calling on the European Union (EU) to exclude bioenergy from its next Renewable Energy Directive (RED), and thereby stop direct and indirect subsidies for renewable energy from biofuels and wood-burning.

The EU is provoking a global expansion in industrial bioenergy use and the rapid development and expansion of a global trade in biofuels and wood-based bioenergy. Of all energy classed as renewable in the EU in 2012, bioenergy and ‘waste’ accounted for around two-thirds.

By including bioenergy in renewable energy targets, the EU is promoting direct and indirect subsidies for it, claiming that it is a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. But according to the International Energy Agency, renewable energy is “energy derived from natural processes (e.g. sunlight and wind) that are replenished at a faster rate than they are consumed”. Bioenergy does not meet this definition as there is no guarantee that all biomass that is burned is replenished, and it is never replenished “at a faster rate” than it is consumed. Moreover, large-scale bioenergy is far from sustainable, as it relies on a major expansion of industrial agriculture, of monoculture tree plantations, and of industrial logging. These industrial activities deplete and pollute soils and water, destroy forests, grasslands and wetlands, and destroy the livelihoods of many millions of people, particularly in the global South.

The EU claims to have a very ambitious climate policy and emission reduction targets. But this claim is built on the false premise that large-scale bioenergy is inherently carbon neutral, or at least "low carbon”. A growing body of evidence, however, shows that, especially when bioenergy is produced and used on a large scale, it tends to increase rather than decrease carbon emissions when compared to fossil fuels.

Many in the EU claim that the adverse environmental and climatic impacts of large-scale bioenergy can be avoided through the application of sustainability standards. However, standards applied to individual batches of 'raw material' cannot address an issue that is inherently one of scale: the very scale of industrial bioenergy is a problem in itself. Standards and certification schemes are applied only to specific loads of biomass or biofuel, and have no impact on overall scale and expansion. On the contrary, they may add to the problem by legitimising large-scale bioenergy use in the eyes of the public. Furthermore, as the Volkswagen scandal has shown, standards and even regulations are ineffective without strict independent enforcement, yet existing biofuel standards and proposed ones for biomass rely entirely on self-regulation by companies and their chosen consultants.

In the EU, bioenergy tends to compete with less carbon- and land-intensive renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, rather than with fossil fuels, because it fits into the current infrastructure for the latter, so hindering real change.

Bioenergy can provide a sustainable energy option, but only when produced on a small-scale basis for local energy needs, and only if (for example) the health impacts of indoor smoke, especially on women, are taken into account. Small-scale local bioenergy schemes could still attract support, for example under Rural Development programmes. In fact, community-based bioenergy schemes often benefit from this type of support already, rather than from the subsidies that stem from the Renewable Energy Directive, which disproportionately boost large-scale industrial schemes.

The EU cannot be allowed to continue the current model of energy consumption, promoted through false assumptions about bioenergy being renewable, when its application at an industrial scale clearly is not. Claims of emission reductions are often false, and come at the expense of land, livelihoods, forests, soil and water. The EU already bears great responsibility for the climate and biodiversity crises currently facing the planet. Claiming more land for bioenergy production, under the false premise that this is a contribution to climate protection, can only increase the already unacceptably high land footprint of the EU.

We call on the EU to end the current overconsumption of energy, and its huge impact on peoples and ecosystems globally, and to move towards a major reduction in energy consumption with all the changes in current development models that will imply.

A positive step and a good signal for the rest of the world would be to fully recognise the devastating direct and indirect impacts of large-scale bioenergy on people, territories, forests, and the climate, and to exclude bioenergy from definitions of renewable energy and from the next EU RED.

For background information, see: Bioenergy Out: Why bioenergy should not be included in the next EU Renewable Energy Directive,

Signing on: If you want to sign on to this declaration, please send the name of your organisation to

here is the list of signatories of the declaration:

Name Country
AFAC (Action Communautaire des Femmes Autochtones du Congo) Democratic Republic of Congo
Africando Spain 
ALDEAH (Alternatives au Développement Extractiviste et Anthropocentré) France
Asociación MONTUBIA Peru
Asociación pola Defensa da Ría APDR Galicia, Spain
Attac  France
Biofuelwatch UK/US
Bosques Sin Forestales  Chile
Censat Agua Viva Colombia
Center for Encounter and active Non-Violence Austria
Centro de Estudios Ecuménicos Mexico
Centro Salvadoreño de Tecnologia Apropiada (CESTA) / Friends of the Earth El Salvador El Salvador
Coal Action Network UK 
Coalition Against Landgrabbing Philippines
COECOCEIBA (Friends of the Earth Costa Rica) Costa Rica
Colectivo Madre Selva Guatemala
Comisión Par la Defensa de la Vida y La Naturaleza Guatemala
Comité Oscar Romero de Vigo Spain
Comunidad  Salud Ancestral Ñuke Mapu Newen  Chile
Corporate Europe Observatory EU
Crocevia Italy
Denkhaus Bremen Germany
Ecologistas en Acción Spain
EcoNexus UK
ETC Group International
European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism Europe
FIAN International International
Friends of the Earth International International
Friends of the Siberian Forest Russia
Fuel Poverty Action UK
Gaia Foundation UK
Global Forest Coalition International
Green Cross Society Ukraine
Grupo de Reflexión Rural Argentina
Maderas del Pueblo del Sureste, Oaxaca-Chiapas Mexico
Mangrove Action Project International
Meada Thoamacheat (Mother Nature) Cambodia
Movimiento Mesoamericano contra el Modelo extractivo Minero - M4 Central America
MUFRAS-32 (Movimiento Unificado Francisco Sánchez 1932) El Salvador
National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) Uganda
NOAH (Friends of the Earth Denmark) Denmark
Organización Rakizuam mapuche  Chile
Organización Sabiduría del LaKuTuN  Chile
Organización Trepey Pu Lamngen  Chile
Otros Mundos A/C (Friends of the Earth Mexico) Mexico
Plataforma de Solidaridad con Chiapas y Guatemala de Madrid Spain
Pro Wildlife Germany
Quercus - Associação Nacional de Conservação da Natureza Portugal
RECOMA ( Red contra los monocultivos de árboles en América Latina) International
Red Latina sin fronteras International
Regenwald Institut e.V. Germany
Rettet den Regenwald e.V. Germany
Salva la Selva Spain
Servicios Jurídicos y Sociales, Sociedad Civil   (SERJUS) Guatemala
Sunray Harvesters India
Timberwatch South Africa
Transnational Institute International
Woodland League Ireland
World Family UK
World Rainforest Movement International
Yayasan Lebah Nusantara Indonesia
Bioenergy Declaration(pdf, 180.26 KB)
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