Friends of the Earth Australia Submission on burning native forest timber (biomass burning) for energy production in Australia (In relation to Climate Change Bill 2022 and Climate Change (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2022)
During the Climate Bill negotiations, the ALP made a commitment to look into removing a Coalition loophole from the Renewable Energy Act, which allows the destruction and burning of native forests to be classified as renewable energy.
The Federal Government’s Native forest biomass in the Renewable Energy Target consultation paper has been released and public submissions are now open.
This is our chance to prevent further destruction of native forests by stopping the burning of biomass in Australia. With your help, we can nip this harmful proposal in the bud.
We all know that burning native forest wood is a disaster for the environment and should not be classified as renewable energy.
We have a massive opportunity to change this.
The Federal Minister for Climate Change and Energy
The Hon Chris Bowen MP
The Federal Minister for Environment and Water
The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP
Friends of the Earth does not support the burning of native forest timber (biomass burning) for energy production, and believes it should be removed from eligibility under the Renewable Energy Target (RET).
In 2009 the Federal Labor government increased the national RET to ensure 20% of Australia's electricity needs would come from wind and solar. The policy has been critical to establishing the wind and solar industries, and secured the construction of dozens of large and small scale renewable energy projects. After a lost decade of climate inaction under successive Coalition governments, the RET remains as important as ever.
Native forests should not be treated as a 'renewable' resource that can be used for biomass. Continuing to incentivise burning native forest timber for energy risks undermining the integrity of the national RET, a policy that will play a key role in rolling out wind and solar power to act on the climate crisis.
Today, biomass plants emit over 65% more CO2 than modern coal plants and 285% more than natural gas combined cycle plants. Wood is a less energy-dense fuel; therefore biomass plants emit more CO2 emissions than coal plants to generate the same amount of energy. In the UK, biomass has been used to subsidise current coal generators by transitioning to burning wood, which is worse in terms of emissions.
Furthermore, biomass as a source of energy would be completely unreliable as Australia’s forestry industries are already struggling with shortage of wood supply. This is partly due to climate change, bushfires, overlogging and, most importantly, lack of adequate regeneration. Therefore, the logic of being able to supply timber for burning when we already have a native timber shortage to supply the pulp agreement is invalid. We are already seeing the effects of timber shortages on energy supply in places that depend on biomass burning as a source of energy, such as Germany. They are now having to import timber from surrounding Nations at a great cost to avoid making the energy crisis worse.
Specifically in Victoria, the overwhelming majority of Victorians also support an end to native forest logging and do not view the burning of native forests as a sustainable or ethical solution to meet the needs of Victoria’s energy requirements. There are far more cost effective and sustainable renewable energy solutions available to the state of Victoria that we are already investing into, and should continue to build upon this work such as wind farms and solar. These industries provide an opportunity to generate thousands more jobs for regional communities. Native forest wood waste is neither clean nor renewable. This sentiment is reflected on a national level.
The work conducted by Australia’s leading forest ecologist, David Lindenmayer, clearly indicates that biomass burning for energy generation should be banned in Australia, and crucially, native forest timber should be removed from the Renewable Energy Target. Native forest biomass must be excluded from energy production for a range of key reasons which is outlined in Lindenmayer’s submission we have attached as a supporting document to this submission. We ask that you listen to the best available and conclusive science that clearly states that biomass is not a renewable energy solution for Australians into the future.
The federal government recently outlined their plan for zero extinctions, which is a very important step in safeguarding Australia’s unique flora and fauna. However, considering biomass as a renewable energy solution will have grave consequences for our native forests as habitat, driving already threatened and endangered species closer to extinction, risking water security and natural carbon sinks.
Australia’s overall environment is in a crisis which was revealed by the State of Environment Report 2021 and we cannot possibly remedy this situation if we continue to clear land and destroy native forests. We do not support the concept of native forest ‘waste’ as extractive industries have reduced precious native forests to a cheap product, rather than valuing it as the precious ecosystems they are.
We need to bring forward the end of native forest logging and not create any new industries dependent on native forests, instead transitioning into sustainable and sensible industries, supporting regional communities that are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change to become more resilient.
We strongly urge the government to act sensibly and place a ban on native forests for biomass energy across Australia because the forests are already suffering greatly.
We look forward to the government keeping their promises for meaningful environmental action, taking genuine steps for nature, climate and First Nations culture. No consent has been given to burn native forests for energy. We need real renewable energy solutions that support the integrity of regional communities in a rapidly changing world adapting to climate change.
Friends of the Earth Australia