Last week, the European Parliament voted to phase out certain subsidies that encourage production and use of wood energy––the largest source of renewable energy in Europe (New York Times). Under the proposal, subsidies would be phased out for healthy, standing trees logged for fuel, but would remain for trees cut down for fire prevention or road safety (Guardian). The vote comes after years of deforestation in the bloc that has been shown to be counterproductive to carbon emission reduction goals. 

European governments initiated wood energy subsidies over ten years ago to discourage use of oil and natural gas, and have since doled out billions of dollars in tax breaks and financial incentives (New York Times). Since then, scientists have found that wood burning releases more carbon into the atmosphere than burning gas or coal. Europe’s wood burning energy industry currently emits more than 400 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year––an equivalent to all of Italy or Poland (Politico). An investigation conducted by the Environmental Investigation Agency found that 40% of wood from registered shipments leaving Romanian forests came from protected areas (Guardian). The discovery of these realities prompted a dramatic change in political opinion on wood energy, culminating in the vote (New York Times). 

Parliament’s proposal lacks key details as to when the phaseout will occur, but changes are not expected for at least a year (New York Times).