Published On: Sun, Dec 4th, 2022

Sunak bombarded as furious scientists lash out over ‘devastating’ UK energy source | Science | News

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been bombarded with complaints from over 600 furious scientists who have raised the alarm over the UK’s “disturbing” energy source which is reportedly having “devastating” environmental impacts. Experts are incredibly concerned over the UK’s use of biomass, which involves chopping down trees and burning them to generate electricity. Scientific experts have written a letter to Mr Sunak urging him to ditch the controversial energy source, which tends to divide scientific opinion.

The Biomass UK Renewable Energy Association argues that it is a green energy source because  plants and trees are continually grown for a variety of purposes. While these these processes often create residues that aren’t needed, such residues “can be used as a low-carbon, renewable alternative to displace fossil fuels. We can also use purpose-grown crops”. 

But hundreds of experts have warned that the controversial energy sources is destroying the “lungs of the earth” and is hamstringing the fight against climate change. 

Its opponents have also warned that bioenergy is a “growing threat to biodiversity” because of the amount of trees and habitats that get destroyed in the process of producing the energy. 

Professor Alexandre Antonelli, Kew Gardens’ director of science and one of the leading authors of the letter, told Sky News: “It is simply not environmentally sustainable.


“Sustainability means you can do something forever… and because we are losing forests that have been growing for many decades, if not centuries, we are not allowing nature to recover to the level it needs to recover the biodiversity.”

He added that forests contain important features like mosses, which can slow flooding, and pollinating insects and birds and can absorb more carbon dioxide. 

The signatories are calling for the Prime Minister to abandon the energy source altogether, and are desperate for the other major economies like the US and China to do the same. 

This comes just a week in advance of COP15 in Montreal, in which negotiators will meet to discuss how to put an end to the loss of nature that provides food, medicine, income and pollination across the globe.

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But the group of 600 scientists are concerned that the talks may fall flat unless businesses stop destroying forests for bioenergy. It comes after the industry received a major boost in recent years as the UK scrambles to replace coal, the most polluting fossil fuel.

This also comes after the Climate Change Committee (CCC), which advises the Government on climate, called for bioenergy to have a limited role in Britain. Last year, the energy source accounted for nearly 13 percent of the country’s electricity. 

In the CCC’s report to Parliament in July 2021, it said that Britain needed to deliver a Biomass Strategy that is “aligned to the UK’s path to Net Zero, and which reflects recommendations on governance, monitoring and best-use from the Committee’s 2018 Biomass report and 2020 Land Use report.”

The 2018 report said that while the UK should aim to increase the volume of carbon stored in our forests and land, biomass should still be used but only in the most effective way. It also warned that rules governing the supply of sustainable sources of biomass for energy must be improved.

Prof Antonelli said: “We have to do everything we can to reverse the loss of biodiversity worldwide…The climate and biodiversity crises are strongly intertwined, and we need to find solutions for both of them.”

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He also noted that while the green transition is a huge challenge, “we don’t think burning down forests… is the right solution.” Prof Antonelli added: “The signatories want governments to replace it with wind or solar power instead.”

But this is not the first time that the alarm has been raised over the so-called green energy source. Last December, a group of 50 MPs said that burning wood for energy was a complete “scandal”. 

Organised by Sir Peter Bottomley MP, the letter calls for a meeting with the then Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng to discuss ending subsidies to the Drax power plant in Yorkshire. The plant supplies around 12 percent of the UK’s renewable electricity, making it Europe’s largest wood-burning power station. 

The letter read: “The sacrifices constituents are being asked to make to reach net zero are huge. Neither they nor we can understand why it was decided to give Drax £4billion of subsidies from electricity bills to create even more carbon dioxide. This scandal demands an immediate response.”

A Government spokesperson said Britain “only supports biomass which complies with our strict sustainability criteria”. They added: “Many biomass feedstocks are likely to be combusted or decomposed anyway, so it is more efficient to use that material as an energy source and displace expensive, volatile fossil fuels in the process.”

Neither they nor we can understand why it was decided to give Drax £4 billion of subsidies from electricity bills to create even more carbon dioxide. This scandal demands an immediate response

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