NEW INVESTIGATION: UK’s Drax bid to buy Pinnacle could turn some of last remaining primary forests in Canada into wood pellets, putting species and the climate at further risk
March 23, 2021
New maps show critical primary forests and endangered species in British Columbia overlap with pellet facility wood sourcing across an area equivalent to 1.4 million soccer fields.
London, England and Unceded Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nation Territories (Vancouver, British Columbia) — A new investigation from Stand.earth reveals that Drax Plc., which operates the world’s largest biomass burning plant out of northern England, is set to worsen its impacts on critical forests around the globe with a new acquisition of Pinnacle Renewable Energy—all under the guise of renewable energy and climate solutions and with billions in UK taxpayer subsidies in play.
The majority of Pinnacle’s wood pellet facilities are in Canada — with a concentration in British Columbia — a region home to some of the most carbon dense forests in the world. This latest research from Stand.earth shows that Pinnacle’s seven wood pellet facility “haul zones” overlap with vital primary forests and threatened species habitat.
Preliminary analysis from Stand.earth Research Group shows an area of nearly 845,000 hectares or 1.4 million soccer fields of unprotected primary forests and threatened caribou (reindeer) habitat in British Columbia will be at greater risk of being turned into wood pellets if Drax solidifies its footprint in this region.
“It’s like adding insult to injury. Climate change is ravaging the natural world and instead of helping protect what little primary forests are left, Drax is speeding up their demise by burning them,” said Tzeporah Berman, Stand.earth’s International Program Director.
The B.C. government has touted wood pellet exports as an opportunity to make use of waste, such as sawdust and slash piles. However, Stand.earth’s and Conservation North’s investigations have shown with absolute certainty that wood pellets are being made from whole trees in British Columbia. In fact, B.C. has demonstrated an alarming trend of increasingly allowing companies to log primary and old growth forests for wood pellets.
“Primary forests in British Columbia are already extremely fragmented and at enormous risk. The last thing these forests need is the added pressure of becoming fuel for highly polluting electricity in the UK,” said Tegan Hansen, Forest Campaigner at Stand.earth. “These last Primary forests protect our communities from fires and floods, provide clean drinking water and wildlife habitat, and ensure jobs and recreation opportunities. Cutting them down simply to burn them overseas is horrifying and an insult to forest communities.”
The momentum to stop Drax in its tracks is brewing around the world. A range of global NGOs released an open letter to Drax shareholders urging them to vote against the acquisition. Canada is the second largest exporter of wood pellets globally, shipping them primarily to the UK and Japan where governments have marketed the industry as carbon neutral — despite the science proving otherwise. Shareholders—including Blackrock, Schroders PLC and Invesco Limited who are among the top institutional shareholders of Drax—will be voting on whether to approve Drax’s acquisition of Pinnacle by March 31.
“Drax already burns more wood than the UK produces in total in its power station every year, much of it from the clearcutting of highly biodiverse forests in the Southeastern USA, Baltic States and Canada,” said Almuth Ernsting, Researcher and Campaigner with Biofuelwatch. “An acquisition of Pinnacle Pellets would turn them into one of the top two pellet producers worldwide and make them directly rather than ‘just’ indirectly responsible for the logging of boreal and temperate rainforests.”
A letter from 500 scientists to world leaders in February this year calls for an end to policies that prop up the burning of trees for energy because it poses “a double climate problem” that threatens forests’ biodiversity and efforts to stem the planet’s ecological emergency. Just last week, a former UN vice chair, called on the United Kingdom to review policies on burning wood for energy, because they are contradictory to the Paris Climate Agreement.
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Almuth Ernsting, Researcher and Campaigner, Biofuelwatch, firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: +44 131 623 2600