Track & Trace? More like “Trick or Trace”

Enviva’s “Track & Trace” system, which claims to track every ton of wood that the company buys, was proven to be little more than a smokescreen for destruction in a recent North Carolina investigation. TV2, Denmark’s most-viewed public broadcasting news channel, revealed in a primetime four-part series the devastating impacts that Denmark’s import of wood pellets is having on Southern forests, communities, and climate. Putting Enviva’s Sampson County facility under a microscope, the team of investigative journalists found a major crack in Enviva’s Track & Trace system. This once again proved that the production of wood pellet biomass in the Southern United States for buyers in Denmark, the UK, and the Netherlands comes hand-in-hand with forest destruction and imperiling the climate.

Photo by Celina Danielsen

“Track & Trace”? More like “Trick or Trace”

Enviva’s Track & Trace program has been cited by governments in the United States and abroad — from North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality to sustainability policies in countries like Denmark. Policymakers use Enviva’s own sourcing claims as justification for providing the industry with billions of dollars in subsidies meant to address the climate emergency. This system was created to quiet policymakers’ questions about Enviva’s harmful impact on forests, communities and the climate — concerns which have been coming for years from community members, environmental advocates, and scientists. In the Track & Trace system, Enviva claims not to source from old growth forests, protected forests, or from any forests where a landowner plans to convert their land to another use.

However, repeated on-the-ground investigations tell a much different story than the one Enviva is spinning. Mostly recently, the TV2 investigation documented local sources telling the station that not all trees are replanted. Indeed, a logger in North Carolina told TV2 that he has supplied wood to Enviva from a forest that was turned into “grazing land.” All the tree stumps are removed and then they plant for cows and horses.” This isn’t too surprising, given there are no laws or regulations to guarantee that forestland is replanted — just Enviva’s word.

TV2 also tracked Enviva sourcing trees from a clearcut area in North Carolina. These bottomland forest ecosystems in the coastal plain are more important than ever to protect communities from flooding and storms like Hurricanes Dorian and Florence. Enviva’s response to TV2? They denied it, despite TV2 clearly showing that the system is far from bulletproof.

TV2 pokes holes in Enviva’s claims

Enviva has operated with little to no legal oversight in the Southern United States for close to a decade now. Floating on renewable energy subsidies designed to address climate change, countries like Denmark, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands subject Enviva to sustainability requirements, but they leave enforcement up to the company.

The question is: when you’re an ocean away, can meaningful carbon reductions be guaranteed when the fox is guarding the henhouse?

The TV2 investigation as well as investigations Dogwood Alliance and other organizations have carried out year after year, show that wood pellet biomass leads to forest destruction and climate impacts.

Enviva’s own data confirm that 83% of their sourcing comes from standing forests and more than half (53%) comes from hardwood trees. A majority of forests that Enviva sources from for its wood pellets are natural forests, which, former International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientist Dr. Bill Moomaw has illuminated as the precise ecosystems that should be left for “proforestation.” Proforestation, a new term in our understanding of natural climate solutions, means leaving older & middle-aged forests intact for their superior carbon-sequestration abilities.

In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Moomaw explained, “The most effective thing that we can do is to allow trees that are already planted, that are already growing, to continue growing to reach their full ecological potential, to store carbon, and develop a forest that has its full complement of environmental services. Cutting trees to burn them is not a way to get there.”

The IPCC warned in the 1.5C report that to stop climate change, we must do more than stop using fossil fuels; we must also remove large amounts of carbon from our atmosphere. Keeping our forests standing is the best, cheapest, and most proven “technology” to do this. Connecting the IPCC’s special reports to the most recent science from Europe’s highest scientific academy (EASAC), a critical factor to consider with biomass for electricity are payback periods.

..burning forest biomass transmits the carbon from the forest stock to the atmosphere within minutes, and there is a carbon ‘payback period’ between this initial release and a return to forest carbon stocks through regrowth… Given that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2018) projects that average surface temperatures are likely to exceed 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 on current trends, payback periods of decades increase the risk of overshooting Paris Agreement targets.” (EASAC 2019)

There’s not much that’s scarier than forest destruction, and burning trees for electricity is as spooky as it gets. This Halloween, don’t get tricked. Dogwood Alliance is heeding the warnings of scientists and leading the charge to fight wood pellet biomass: from its creation in production facilities in the United States, all the way to influencing the policies at the national level of importing countries.

We need your help to stop Enviva from destroying our forests.

Support the fight against Enviva by giving $10 today for a future without industrial-scale biomass. 

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