Dear President Biden Beware of the Danish climate envoy
The time has come for a showdown with the Danish model for green conversion of energy systems
President Joe Biden has invited 40 world leaders to the Leaders Summit on Climate. The president invited the “heads of other countries that are demonstrating climate leadership” to discuss “innovative pathways to a net-zero economy.” One of the invited leaders is the Danish Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen, who is expected to talk today about Denmark's so-called green energy transition. But, what Ms. Frederiksen is unlikely to mention is that Denmark burns enormous amounts of biomass, including American wood, and calls it climate neutral energy.
This uncomfortable fact seems contradictory considering Denmark’s remarkable success in branding itself as a frontrunner in the fight for the climate and as an example for other developed countries to follow. This perception is widespread, articles in The Guardian, U.S.News, and Japan Times highlight Denmark as a world leader in the climate field. But the country is still emitting massive amounts of carbon.The shift from coal to biomass in the electricity co-generation sector is overlooked, despite the fact that the shift from one dirty fuel to another is the most important reason why Denmark can claim to have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 40% (since 1990).
Since 1990, the Danish consumption of biomass for the production of electricity and heat has almost quadrupled. The highly acclaimed wind turbine energy production accounted for only 23% of renewable energy in 2019, while burning biomass for the production of electricity and heat accounted for as much as 60%. As half of this biomass is imported, Danes get more energy from burning imported biomass than they get from wind, solar, and geothermal combined.
What Ms. Frederiksen presents as a “green” energy system is only green on paper. If the smokestack CO2 emissions from biomass are included in the carbon accounts, actual Danish emissions are nearly 50% higher than the figures presented to the UN in 2019.
These misleading calculations are made possible by the European Commission’s Renewable Energy Directive (REDII), which allows the burning of forest biomass to qualify as ‘renewable’ energy. In the directive, it is also established that burning biomass can be considered as a “zero-emissions” form of energy.
But as the European Commission’s own Joint Research Centre (JRC) has warned, burning forest biomass is not carbon neutral. Burning biomass emits massive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere instantaneously, while it will take decades, if not centuries, for the forest to regrow and sequester the emitted CO2.
“The majority of the energy used in Denmark is black as coal in the form of either fossil fuels or bioenergy. The Danish transition from fossil fuels to another dirty fuel source is not an example to follow - especially when almost half of the biomass is imported, depleting other countries' forests and carbon stocks. Denmark is certainly not a good example for other countries to follow. If we want a green image, we should instead do everything we can to get forest biomass out of energy production”, says Bente Hessellund Andersen, NOAH Friends of the Earth Denmark.
This madness must come to an end. That is why NOAH has joined other European organizations in calling the EU leaders to reform the renewable energy policy by excluding forest biomass from counting towards the EU’s renewables target, thus removing a main driver of deforestation.
The exclusion of biomass from renewable energy must be established before Biden's climate summit can be used to discuss how we can achieve a truly climate-neutral future.
For further information, please contact:
Bente Hessellund Andersen NOAH - Friends of the Earth Denmark
Phone: +45 2929 4527