Sustainability criteria for bioenergy from forest biomass
Rosero Abad, S.A.
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Forest biomass is the main source of solid biomass in the EU and the main contributor to renewable energy generation. Because of its versatility and the possibilities for its use in various sectors to generate heat, electricity and in the future also biofuels and biobased materials, forest biomass is becoming increasingly attractive. This means that in the coming years, an increased demand for forest biomass can be expected. Therefore, it becomes necessary to address the possible sustainability risks that may arise from its increased use. Sustainability criteria define the essential elements related to the use of forest biomass that need to be assessed to guarantee its environmental, social and economic status across generations. A number of sustainability standards and certification schemes for forestry biomass and the production of bioenergy are available at national and international level, with the RED II setting the pathway for the minimum goals of the EU member states. This thesis starts from a comprehensive set of sustainability criteria going beyond those included in the RED II. The criteria in the RED II were compared to these criteria and to existing voluntary schemes and national legislation to identify its strengths and weaknesses. Secondly, the RED II was compared with a set of risk pathways. In these pathways, forest feedstock types, forest management and wood use practices are combined in a way that good and bad practices can be outlined to determine the risk of carbon impact. The objective of this second comparison was to find the cases in which even compliance with the RED II could result in bad practices or in the use of sources with high-risk of GHG emissions. After identifying the main sustainability risks, a stakeholder consultation was conducted to find why and how these risks can be tackled. It was found that although a EU-wide harmonized set of criteria is theoretically desirable, it should impose a bar above which MSs could set their national criteria. Also, such a set should be strengthened with adequate monitoring and verification mechanisms to ensure the sustainability of feedstock when sourced from high risk areas. Finally, it was found that some current sustainability concerns could be better tackled by means other than criteria, through other political or economic measures and mechanisms.