The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency recently released a new study, concluding that biomass does, in fact, play “a significant role in a climate-neutral, circular economy.” The study is titled “Availability and Application Possibilities of Sustainable Biomass,” and draws upon 400 paper and 150 interviews. This study is the latest in a long series of studies that support forestry as part of a global strategy to lower carbon levels in our atmosphere, and finds that the use of sustainable wood bioenergy is central to the Netherlands’ effort to mitigate climate change.
Essentially, this study confirms that there isn’t really a path for the Netherlands to achieve a climate-neutral circular economy, as mentioned above, without a significant role for biomass.
The Role of Biomass in Reduced Carbon Emissions
So, why is this important? Like their American and European Union counterparts, Dutch environmental activists are divided over what role woody biomass should play in the fight to reduce carbon emissions. Some groups have gone so far as to refer to the forestry industry as an agricultural version of Big Oil. These studies, however, are successfully debunking claims like these. They’ve been diving into not only the benefits, but also the costs of forestry land management as a method of sequestering carbon to keep it out of the atmosphere.
The Congressional Research Service recently published an overview highlighting the positive role played by forestry (in the southeastern United States in particular) in storing carbon to help with climate change:
“The EPA estimates that US forests were a net sink of carbon, having sequestered 221 million metric tons of carbon in 2018—an offset of approximately 12 percent of the gross annual greenhouse gas emissions from the United States for the year.”
In addition to this, a study by researchers at the Universities of Maine, Ohio State, and the Georgia Institute of Technology concluded that:
“Incentivizing both wood-based bioenergy and forest sequestration could increase carbon sequestration and conserve natural forests simultaneously. We conclude that the expanded use of wood for bioenergy will result in net carbon benefits, but an efficient policy also needs regular forest carbon sequestration.”
The European Commission also recently released its EU biodiversity strategy, declaring “sustainable bioenergy” is “essential to fight climate change.” Some argue, however, that this incentivizes destruction practices. For example, people would be more motivated to clear forests in sensitive areas like the Amazon. Others counter that a market for sustainable forestry like that in the American southeast gives landowners incentives to continue to grow trees—with the confidence that there will be a market for the wood products they’re growing.
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