‘A climate fallacy’: Charity launches legal action against biomass strategy

An environmental charity is seeking a judicial review of the government’s plans to promote the use of biomass fuel in its greenhouse gas reduction strategy.

The government’s Biomass Strategy - published in March as part of its Carbon Budget Delivery Plan - identified bioenergy as one of three low carbon fuel sources which could replace fossil fuel use in the industrial sector and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

However, the Lifescape Project, represented by law firm Leigh Day, argues that the secretary of state’s decision to adopt the strategy is unlawful under section 13 of the Climate Change Act to have policies and proposals that will enable the carbon budgets to be met.  

READ MORE: Why is the government ‘banking on biomass?’

It also claims that the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero’s (DESNZ) assessment of biomass as a low carbon fuel does not take into account lifecycle biogenic CO2 emissions from manufacturing and combusting the biomass, pointing to research showing that net emissions from forest biomass typically exceed emissions from fossil fuels per unit of energy, and that impacts last for decades.

Elsie Blackshaw-Crosby, managing lawyer at The Lifescape Project, said: “Burning wood for electricity and calling it ‘low carbon’ is a climate fallacy which detracts from genuine climate solutions while simultaneously destroying forest eco-systems in Canada, the US and Europe.”

The UK government’s plans would cost billions of pounds of public money without contributing to the net zero target, she added.

A spokesperson for DESNZ said that the department could not comment on ongoing legal proceedings. The spokesperson added that when used carefully, sustainable biomass is a versatile resource and a potential alternative to fossil fuels for power, heating and transport, and that the strategy sets out the role biomass could play in multiple UK sectors, such as industry and aviation, and

“Alongside carbon capture and storage, it will help cut emissions while creating jobs, growing the economy and strengthening Britain's energy security,” they said.