European Commissioner Frans Timmermans stated that this specifically concerns biomass from residual wood, where the principle of cascading is applied. It means that woody biomass must first be used in a way that delivers the highest economic and environmental value.
At the same time, the European Commission confirms its commitment to protect all European primeval forests, peatlands and wetlands. No biomass can be sourced in these locations. The Fit for 55 package includes new forestry legislation for Europe with stricter and more transparent governance rules. Smaller bioenergy plants will also have to comply with the stricter emission requirements that already apply to larger plants. After 2026, no more subsidies will be possible for wood-fired power plants.
The plan has been criticised both by environmental organisations, who feel it does not go far enough, and by the forestry industry, who say it ignores the economic role of forests. Countries with a large forestry sector, such as Finland and Sweden, are opposing the Commission’s plan and could receive support from other major European countries, such as France.
Another entirely new piece of legislation concerns the carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM), designed to prevent carbon leakage. This can occur when industries move their production abroad so they pay less for CO2 emissions, after which they can sell their products cheaply in the EU. The European Commission therefore wants an import levy on non-sustainable products. The measure specifically concerns cement, fertilisers, iron and steel, aluminium and electricity. According to the World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, this is a way of protecting the EU internal market that will make it impossible for European companies to receive any more free emission rights under the ETS.
Other new laws focus on social facilities for climate action, the mandatory blending of biofuels and e-fuels with aviation fuel and the decarbonisation of shipping by increasing the use and production of sustainable alternative fuels.
A number of existing laws will also be reviewed, including the ETS system for emission allowances, the LULUCF rules on land use change and forestry and the Renewable Energy Directive (RED).
More information can be found on the European Commission’s website.
Image: EC – Audiovisual Service