Göran Persson, former Swedish primeminister is the chairman of the ThinkForest which works to identify information needs related to forest policy questions and build a common understanding of the problems at hand.
Göran Persson, former Swedish primeminister is the chairman of the ThinkForest which works to identify information needs related to forest policy questions and build a common understanding of the problems at hand.

Forest bioenergy in Europe: Towards sustainable options

18March 2014 at 15.00-17.30

European Parliament, Brussels (Altiero Spinelli, room A3H-1)

Background

Forest biomass is a major contributor to meeting the targets of the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive. This is because biogenic CO2 emissions from the combustion of forest biomass used for energy and transport purposes are set to zero. However, forest bioenergy is not a single entity, but hides a variety of sources and qualities, conversion technologies, end products and markets. As a consequence, the technological and economic efficiency as well as the carbon and wider sustainability impacts varies greatly. In this respect, the “carbon neutrality” assumption of bioenergy is an oversimplification. This simplification can result in misleading emission accounting; it might even result in incentives which increase greenhouse emissions. In addition, sustainability assessment needs to take into account other important environmental aspects (biodiversity, soil and water conservation) as well as relevant socio-economic sustainability perspectives.

In recent years, concerns have been growing that increased biomass mobilization for energy use in the EU may result in unintended negative environmental impacts, both in the EU and in third countries (carbon leakages). In this context, a full understanding of the climate change mitigation benefits of different forest bioenergy pathways is needed,  including the socio-economic implications of how forest owners and managers plan forest management based on future expectations of bioenergy policies and markets.

At the same time, forest bioenergy issues should not be detached from the ongoing discussions on the future EU “bioeconomy”. This policy debate, together with new technology options (biorefineries), has increased the focus on forest biomass with a range of sectors increasingly producing bio-based products. In this context, the challenge is to find the most efficient way of using forest biomass to ensure the highest economic and environmental added value.

The European Forest Institute (EFI), conscious of the complexity of the topic, as it was clear during the ThinkForest event organized on April 2013 on “Opportunities and challenges in meeting renewable energy targets from forest biomass ‐ an EU perspective”, has conducted a scientific collective assessment at European level to provide new policy insights  to policy makers and stakeholders. Such new assessment will be presented at this ThinkForest event.

Objectives

This ThinkForest event will offer scientists, stakeholders and policymakers a discussion forum to build a better understanding of the sustainability of forest bioenergy pathways in Europe, discussing the potential trade-offs with sectors producing bio-materials as well as with EU environmental policies. Recent EFI studies on the subject will be presented and made available at the event.

The event will provide synthesised information and a structured debate around the following questions:

–        Is forest bioenergy “carbon neutral” and what is its potential for climate mitigation?

–        What are the sustainability related risks of intensified forest management for bioenergy use?

–        Bioenergy markets: What are the policy implications for the forest sector?

–        Biomaterials vs. bioenergy: Is the existing policy framework promoting the most efficient use of bioresources?

Draft programme

Opening

Mr. Jo Leinen, MEP

Chair: Göran Persson, ThinkForest President

Session on Sustainability aspects

Presentation: Which are the main sustainability concerns with intensifying forest management for bioenergy purposes?
Mr. Bart Muys, KU Leuven, Belgium

Presentation: Is forest bioenergy “carbon neutral”?
Mr. Martin Junginger, Utrecht University, the Netherlands

Panel discussion: Making sustainability work in practice: stakeholders views

Representative of European Environmental Bureau

Mr. Jaakko Temmes, forest owner

Ms. Fanny-Pomme Langue, Aebiom – European Biomass Association

Open discussion between panel and participants

Session on Bioenergy markets and policy implications

Presentation: Forest bioenergy in Europe: policy messages (based on EFI Study)
Mr. Lauri Hetemäki, EFI

Presentation: Biomass for biomaterials and bioenergy: trade-offs and policy recommendations
(STOA Study)
Ms. Bettina Kretschmer, Institute for European Environmental Policy

Panel discussion: Biomaterials vs bioenergy: is the existing policy framework promoting the most efficient use of forest bioresources?

Mr. Kimmo Järvinen, European Organisation of Sawmill Industry
Mr. Kriton Arsenis, MEP (tbc.)
Mr. Ramon Tremosa i Balcells, MEP (tbc.)

Open discussion

Concluding remarks
Mr. Jo Leinen, MEP
Mr. Paavo Pelkonen, University of Eastern Finland
Mr. Göran Persson, ThinkForest President

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