Growing EU renewables "will hit forestry"

Study warns extra wood fibre demand will harm sustainability of forests, forest industries

EU efforts to increase the use of biomass for energy implies "dramatic change" for wood markets and will reduce the environmental sustainability of both forests and forest-based industries, according to a study released by the Confederation of European Paper Industries (Cepi). The study also claims that growing demand for wood fibre will increase competition from the energy industry, distorting the market and harming forest industries' competitiveness.

The report is based on the 1997 EU target of increasing the share of renewable energy to 12% by 2010, which was recently confirmed in the European Commission's draft renewable energy directive (ENDS Daily 10 May). According to Cepi and partners, achieving the target would require availability of an extra 160m cubic metres of wood per year, or 40% more than at present. Demand for roundwood and forest residues would increase by 60%, they estimate.

The study argues that EU policies depend too heavily on increasing use of wood as a renewable energy source and that the forest industry could be forced into increasing felling rates beyond ecologically safe levels. It also says that by increasing competition for fibres along the entire wood supply chain, European wood supply prices will increase by almost 40%, which in turn will make the EU forest industry less globally competitive.

Cepi is calling on the EU to prioritise alternative sources of biofuels, including short rotation forestry on land previously used for agriculture, non-wood energy crops and post-consumer wood waste.

Follow Up:
Cepi, tel: +32 2 627 49 11

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