Protected forests are being indiscriminately felled across Europe to meet the EU’s renewable energy targets, according to an investigation by the conservation group Birdlife.
Up to 65% of Europe’s renewable output currently comes from bioenergy, involving fuels such as wood pellets and chips, rather than wind and solar power.
Bioenergy fuel is supposed to be harvested from residue such as forest waste but, under current legislation, European bioenergy plants do not have to produce evidence that their wood products have been sustainably sourced.
Birdlife found logging taking place in conservation zones such as Poloniny national park in eastern Slovakia and in Italian riverside forests around Emilia-Romagna, where it said it had been falsely presented as flood-risk mitigation.
In Slovakia, the drive to reach the EU’s renewable energy targets has seen a 72% increase in the use of wood for bioenergy since 2007, according to Birdlife’s Black Book of Bioenergy paper.
Sini Eräjää, Birdlife’s bioenergy officer, said: “This report provides clear evidence that the EU’s renewable energy policies have led to increased harvesting of whole trees and to continued use of food crops for energy. We are subsidising large-scale environmental destruction, not just outside Europe, as in Indonesia or the US, but also right in our own backyard.”