Burning wood for power: a perverse use of public native forests that NSW should not countenance

The National Parks Association of NSW (NPA) urges the Premier to resist calls from the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) to burn north coast forests for power[1]. Touted as ‘innovative’, burning wood for power has been happening for as long as humans have been able to knock stones together to create sparks. It is to energy what the ox is to farming: outdated.

Evidence from Europe[2] shows that the adoption of biomass power is driving deforestation in Russia, Canada, the USA, Slovakia, Italy, Spain and Finland. Far from meeting its stated aims of reducing carbon emissions, biomass has been assessed as driving climate change as it ‘emits more carbon per unit of energy than most fossil fuels’[3]

NPA Senior Ecologist, Dr Oisín Sweeney said: “It’s hard to imagine a worse idea than this. Given what we know that biomass use overseas is driving deforestation, and the evidence that burning forests for power is driving climate change, this is reckless in the extreme.

“Coming from a Government Department that has a responsibility to serve the public interest moves it from merely ill advised to downright irresponsible.

“The Australian Government tells us that logging removes carbon stores from forests, and that north coast forests have huge carbon storage potential[4]. Yet here’s a suggestion to log forests and burn them for power. That’s perverse given we urgently need to tackle climate change, and has serious implications for human health as it results in air pollution.

“Burning forests for power would put a big hole in the NSW Government’s ambitions to have net zero emissions by 2050, because it will reduce the land based carbon stores needed to complement emissions reductions. The Premier, in light of the evidence as to emissions from biomass, should choose genuine renewables.

“Burning forests has long been an industry aim. That’s why the NSW Government permitted the burning of whole logs in 2013[5], and the Federal Government made biomass eligible under the renewable energy target.

“North coast forests are one of just 36 global biodiversity hotspots. Koala populations are in steep decline—partly due to intensive native forest logging. Now this suggestion to burn them.

“Survey after survey shows strong community support for genuine renewables like solar, yet this idea would have us use stone age technology.

“The community has a clear choice: burn public forests and drive wildlife towards the cliff, or end logging and use genuinely innovative technology to generate clean energy.”

Ends. Media contact:

Oisín Sweeney 0431 251 194


[2]BirdLife International: The Black Book of Bioenergy. https://www.birdlife.org/europe-and-central-asia/black-book

[3]Chatham House 2017: The impacts of the demand for woody biomass for power and heat on climate and forests.

Click to access 2017-02-23-impacts-demand-woody-biomass-climate-forests-brack-final.pdf

[4]ABARES 2017. http://data.daff.gov.au/data/warehouse/9aaf/9aafe003/fag17d9abfe20170822/ForestsAtGlance_2017_v1.0.0.pdf

[5]EPA 2013. http://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/licensing-and-regulation/licensing/environment-protection-licences/burning-of-biomaterial/amendments-to-the-burning-of-native-forest-biomaterials-q-and-a

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