Spectacular protest: Don't burn our forests!

Video-projection on the Tiefstack coal plant in Hamburg / Environmental organizations protest against wood combustion and call for climate-friendly heat transition

02. September 2022
Joint press release by ROBIN WOOD, Deutsche Umwelthilfe, NABU
Mirko Boll / ROBIN WOOD
Mirko Boll / ROBIN WOOD

With a spectacular video-projection onto the Tiefstack coal plant in Hamburg last night, the environmental organizations ROBIN WOOD, Environmental Action Germany (Deutsche Umwelthilfe) and Birdlife Germany (NABU) protested against burning wood in power plants. Together with an international coalition of NGOs, they are calling on Members of the European Parliament to oppose the industrial burning of wood in the upcoming vote on the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) on September 13th. In addition, the environmental organizations are increasing public pressure on the Hamburg Senate to take action towards a climate-friendly energy transition and to stop all plans to convert the Tiefstack coal plant to wood combustion.

Until now, the EU continues to subsidise the burning of wood for energy among member states. However, recent studies show that classifying wood combustion as renewable – and therefore emission-free – is not justified. Burning wood releases at least as much CO2 per unit energy as burning fossil fuels and offsetting that impact takes decades to centuries.

"The industrial combustion of forest wood is not renewable and does not help climate protection. It is high time that the EU Parliament corrects this enormous misconception and adapts the Renewable Energy Directive based on the latest scientific findings. Our forests are already suffering enough due to heat and drought. We cannot offer them up for the combustion chambers of power plants – we must protect them", says Sascha Müller-Kraenner, Executive Director of the NGO Environmental Action Germany (Deutsche Umwelthilfe, DUH).

The city of Hamburg is also looking to bolster its carbon footprint by burning wood for energy. As part of a necessary coal-exit, the environmental authority plans to convert its Tiefstack power plant from coal to wood and gas. It will also use industrial waste heat and build two new river heat pumps.

"The Hamburg environmental authority claims that only residual and damaged wood will be burnt", says ROBIN WOOD forest campaigner Jana Ballenthien. "But this doesn’t solve the problem – burning any kind of wood for energy in power plants is fundamentally harmful to the climate. There are no useless residues in forests. Deadwood is an indispensable habitat, nutrient and water reservoir. Damaged trees, with their genetic memory, are also important to ensure the stability of future forest generations given the strains of climate change. In addition, it is difficult to control whether healthy logs end up in power plants."

"Burning forests on a large scale in converted coal-fired power plants is not part of an innovative energy and heat transition, but a very bad idea. Intact forests are essential for climate and species protection. We need investments in real emission-free renewables as well as energy saving instead of counterproductive pretend solutions. The EU must no longer promote energy from forest wood as renewable energy – state support must only be available for truly climate-friendly technologies", says Leif Miller, Director of the environmental organisation Birdlife Germany (NABU).

The environmental organizations criticize the fact that even subsidy programs for "green" district heating, such as the federal subsidy for efficient heating networks (BEW), do not exclude the use of wood biomass. In this way, the federal government subsidizes large-scale industrial wood combustion and sets incentives for operators of heating networks that run completely counter to the goal of climate neutrality. "Wood combustion for energy production must be completely excluded from government subsidies. Otherwise, we are paying to set our future on fire", says Ballenthien.

Press contact:

  • ROBIN WOOD: Jana Ballenthien, Forest Campaigner, +49 (0)40 380 892 11, wald [at] robinwood.de; Ute Bertrand, Spokeswoman, +49 (0)171 835 95 15, presse [at] robinwood.de
  • Environmental Action Germany (DUH): Sascha Müller-Kraenner, Executive Director, +49 (0)160 90354509, mueller-kraenner [at] duh.de; Newsroom, +49 (0)30 2400867-20, presse [at] duh.de
  • Birdlife Germany (NABU): Kenneth Richter, Bioenergy Campaigner, kenneth.richter [at] nabu.de, +49 (0)176 2359 3712; Press Office, +49 (0)30 28 49 84-1510, Presse [at] NABU.de

Photos for free can be downloaded here.

Twitter-Hashtag: #StopFakeRenewables