The US Industrial Pellet Association (USIPA) has welcomed a political agreement that sets into law new sustainability requirements for wood biomass used in Denmark."We applaud Danish leadership for designing strict, yet workable, criteria that provides important sustainability guarantees while securing the critical role of biomass in helping Denmark reduce emissions and reach its climate goals," said Seth Ginther, Executive Director US Industrial Pellet Association (USIPA).
The agreement on the new law, which was announced on October 3, is supported by the Danish government and a majority coalition of eight political parties and replaces a voluntary industry agreement that has regulated sustainable biomass use since 2014.
The agreement delivers on a promise the government already gave when we stepped in: the biomass used in Denmark must be sustainable. And I would like to thank the parties for really good cooperation. Everyone has been willing to give and take, so we now have an agreement that will help ensure that the biomass used is as sustainable as possible. In the long run, we will need much less biomass. But in many cases, we are not yet where we have other alternatives to coal, which must be phased out as soon as possible, said Minister of Climate Dan Jørgensen.
Denmark is among the EU’s leading Member States in its transition to a carbon-neutral economy, exceeding its 30 percent by 2020 target already in 2015 according to Eurostat. Over 37 percent of its energy production is expected to come from renewable sources during 2020.
Biomass is absolutely crucial to ensure that our electricity and heat are not made from coal imported from countries we do not want to depend on. With the agreement, we are able to ensure it is sustainable, and that Danes continue to have a stable supply of heat, said Morten Messerschmidt of the Danish People’s Party.
Firm sustainability criteria
The new law sets firm sustainability criteria for preserving carbon stocks and carbon sinks in source forests, and for protecting natural areas and biodiversity, among other measures. According to USIPA, US producers are able to meet these requirements and have been supplying Member States with sustainable biomass for more than a decade.
Last year the US exported nearly 6 million tonnes of wood pellets to the EU, primarily from its Southeastern states. USIPA points out that this region has been the center of America’s forest products industry since the early 20th century and is one of the largest and most sustainably-managed wood baskets in the world.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, wood volume in this region has increased by 21 percent since 2000, and southeastern landowners are currently growing 43 percent more wood than they remove every year. Independent analysis shows this trend is also consistent within the local sourcing areas surrounding multiple biomass production plants.
As noted by forest economists, forest stocks have been increasing in the US Southeast because markets for wood products, like biomass, provide financial incentives for private landowners to keep investing in the continual cycle of thinning, harvesting, and replanting trees.