Alex Varley-Winter

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Creative Carbon Accounting: How Industry and Government Make Burning Wood Look Like a Climate Solution

Read time: 10 mins
A biomass train

The UK has recently committed to breaking even on the greenhouse gas emissions generated by its economy. This means that for every tonne of carbon dioxide released, a tonne will be captured or locked away elsewhere. It’s a nifty concept, known as ‘net zero’, but it relies on accurately, honestly, counting emissions. And already, countries are undertaking what teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg has called “creative carbon accounting” to balance their books.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the biomass industry. It burns waste or wood to generate energy, much like coal. Biomass also emits carbon-dioxide and other greenhouse gases —again, much like coal.

Unlike coal, however, biomass emissions are being kept off the carbon dioxide balance sheet for most nations, in a way that campaigners allege is dishonest.