U.S. House Climate Action Plan Recognizes Role Of Biomass In Climate Change Mitigation

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Committee on the Climate Crisis released its long-awaited Action Plan to solve the climate crisis and get to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The majority staff report, titled “The Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy, Resilient, and Just America,” specifically recognizes the role of a crucial energy technology that is actively displacing coal and lowering net carbon emissions: wood bioenergy.

The plan states that Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) is critical “to achieve carbon removal” at scale, and the reports notes this point matches the latest recommendations of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The plan calls on Congress to prioritize research on this emerging technology:

“Building Block: Prioritize Research on Bioenergy with Carbon Capture
The IPCC anticipates the world will use Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) to achieve carbon removal at a scale larger than a few hundred gigatons.779 BECCS refers to technologies that produce energy from biomass and store the carbon dioxide.780 If BECCS is deployed at the scale envisioned by the IPCC, world leaders will need to address concerns that BECCS deployment at scale would compete with food production and other land uses and would harm biodiversity” (279).

Further, the plan recognizes biomass and wood products as “natural climate solutions,” calling for increased support for such technologies that help decarbonize the economy and remove carbon from the atmosphere:

“Recommendation: Congress should increase funding and initiatives for specific technologies critical to the resilience and decarbonization of the power, transportation, industry, building, and agriculture sectors, as well as natural and technological carbon removal. The gaps differ by sector and are described in more detail in other sections of this report. Some priority areas include: … Natural climate solutions: Lifecycle accounting of the climate impacts and carbon benefits of wood use and products, including biomass; measurement and evaluation of forest restoration, forest health and wildfire behavior, and carbon sequestration on U.S. lands, forests, and soils; and understanding climate impacts and benefits of blue carbon ecosystems” (217-218). (Emphasis added).

Wood biomass is a small piece of this comprehensive, 500+ page report, but it fills a vitally important role in the global effort to mitigate and combat climate change as it directly displaces dirty fossil fuels such as coal.

U.S. House Plan Adds To Growing Global Consensus On Wood Bioenergy As Part Of Climate Solution

This new House climate plan is the latest in long line of research reports and studies from both governmental and international climate authorities recognizing the role for wood bioenergy in climate change mitigation in recent years, including:

United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

The IPCC, widely considered the world’s leading authority on climate science, has consistently confirmed the important role for forest products and bioenergy in combating climate change and carbon emissions. According to the IPCC, every pathway to keeping temperature increases under 1.5 degrees Celsius includes sustainable forestry and wood biomass.

European Union

The European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, has consistently affirmed the role that wood bioenergy plays in its climate mitigation strategy. In May 2020 the European Commission released a public communication on its 2030 EU biodiversity strategy. This document, which discusses the EU’s efforts and strategy to protect the environment, confirmed that sustainable bioenergy is one of the solutions to climate change.

U.S. Congressional Research Service

In April 2020, the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the nonpartisan think tank run by the Library of Congress that provides nonpartisan policy and legal analysis to the U.S. Congress, published a new report on forest carbon. The report highlights the positive role played by forestry – and US forests – in storing carbon to mitigate climate change. The report explicitly noted the use of wood products as one of three “primary strategic approaches for optimizing forest carbon sequestration and storage.” The CRS also recommended the use of wood as a substitute for fossil fuels.

U.K. Committee on Climate Change

The Committee on Committee Change (CCC) is an independent body that advises the United Kingdom on how to address the climate change crisis. Its January 2020 report reaffirms the positive role wood bioenergy plays in combating climate change, protecting the environment, and reducing net carbon emissions. The report notes that sustainable forest management paired with wood bioenergy plays a key role in reducing emissions, and found that bioenergy is needed to meet the requirements of the Paris Climate Agreement and is included in all scenarios for net-zero emissions.

Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL)

The Dutch Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL), the Netherlands’ national institute for environmental policy analysis, found in a recent report that bioenergy is necessary for the country to meet its climate change targets. The PBL report was “based on a study of 400 reports as well as 150 interviews” and found that “biomass appears to play a significant role in a climate-neutral, circular economy.”