Biomass is now seen as a false climate solution and should no longer be a member of the renewables club
The S&P Global Clean Energy Index is designed to measure top companies in global clean energy-related businesses that helps financial service firms make recommendations to investors concerned about climate change, the environment, and biodiversity. As of today, Drax, the world’s largest burner of biomass energy from forests is no longer considered fit to be included in this index.
Dogwood Alliance applauds this decision. Our work in the Southern US has sought to expose Drax’s greenwashing by telling the story of its practices on the ground which include destroying forests to be burned as energy, harming communities with air pollution, and emitting tons of CO2 at a time when our planet can no longer afford it.
This blow to the global energy giant is just the latest in a string of news where Drax has been in the hot seat.
Earlier this year, Mississippi regulators fined the company’s Amite wood pellet production facility $2.5 million for exceeding air pollution limits. Not only does Drax have a history of air pollution violations in the communities where it sources wood, but it also faces prosecution over exposing its UK employees to hazardous conditions as well.
It appears that the S&P is following the advice of scientists and think tanks who challenge the carbon-neutrality claims of the biomass industry. Last week, the think tank Ember found that burning wood for electricity emits more CO2 than coal. According to their findings, Drax is the largest single source of CO2 in the UK and the third biggest in Europe, even though the company’s emissions go uncounted.
While the financial sector is turning its back on biomass due to it being a false climate solution, misguided government subsidies still prop this industry up in the US, UK, EU, and parts of Asia. The UK government relies heavily on biomass-burning at Drax to meet climate targets and subsidizes Drax to the tune of £3 million per day.
As the UK prepares to host COP26 and tout its practices, they should publicly denounce Drax for its contribution to the climate crisis.
The Southern US is a major source of wood pellets for Drax, and our leaders, such as Governor Roy Cooper in North Carolina, have yet to place a moratorium on permits for the production of wood pellets or to address the destructive impacts of the industry. President Biden could also address these impacts by acknowledging and reporting the greenhouse gas emissions of industrial logging while urging state, federal, and international governments to halt subsidies that are destroying US forests to be burned as fuel.
UK, EU, and US governments must take this signal from the financial sector must be taken seriously. At the policy level, we must reckon with doubts over the sustainability of burning forests during a time of climate, biodiversity, and racial justice crises. Otherwise governments will face embarrassment and worse over falsely labeling it as a green source of energy.