Urgent Need to Consider How to Best Use Biomass in Europe, According to New Report

There are increasing and competing demands for using biomass in the EU, using it for bio-based products in sectors such as construction, energy, transport, furniture and textile industries, but also reserving it for nature conservation and carbon sequestration. The European Environment Agency report, published Nov. 8, stresses that there is an urgent need to prioritize the biomass uses due to different roles foreseen for biomass in the European Green Deal and due to potential shortage of biomass supply in the future.

The EEA report ‘The European biomass puzzle – Challenges, opportunities and trade-offs around biomass production and use in the EU’ looks at how biomass can help Europe reach its climate and environmental objectives, and how climate change might affect the EU’s biomass production in agriculture and forest sectors. The report also discusses key synergies and trade-offs in the use of biomass for different policy objectives.

The key challenge highlighted by the report is that EU policy objectives have competing demands for European biomass that comes from agriculture and forestry, while its supply remains limited by land area, vegetation growth, changing climate and global trade.

The European biomass puzzle
The report stresses there is an urgent need to make decisions on biomass management in Europe to meet environment and climate goals by 2030 and 2050. Decisions are needed to reverse the negative trends in the health of ecosystems as well to increase carbon sinks to meet climate objectives. To achieve results by 2030 and 2050, policy interventions on land management, especially those affecting forests and agriculture, are needed now.
Immediate policy responses raised by the report include specifying how nature protection and carbon sequestration can be combined with biomass production, ensuring that increasing use of biomass does not lead to unsustainable practices in the EU and abroad, and improving a more circular and cascading use of biomass. What biomass feedstocks and products are to be prioritized, and for which purposes, needs to be carefully evaluated against the economic and societal costs and against environment and climate impacts.