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How Europe's clean energy policies harm forests

Anke Rasper | Cäcilia Kruchem
January 4, 2023

With energy prices skyrocketing in Europe, the demand for wood pellets is increasing. While many homeowners want an alternative to costly oil and gas heating, coal plants switching to burning wood chips make huge profits thanks to EU subsidies. But protected forest areas are destroyed at alarming rates, and critics demand a policy change and better forests protection.


Europe is the largest international market for wood pellets. To meet the rising demand, some 20 percent are imported from North America, while most is sourced from Eastern Europe, as well as Scandinavia and the Baltic stats. As prices have gone up, so have the profits. Because wood pellets are considered climate friendly in Europe, they are even subsidized.

While homeowners and the industry benefit, in many areas, the development is now damaging more and more protected and vulnerable forest areas and threatens biodiversity.
Forest experts are sounding the alarm - particularly in Eastern Europe, a lot of trees are being cut down that are far too valuable to go up in smoke. Calls are mounting for the EU to stop subisidizing the wood pellet industry.
But environmentalists,  industry representatives  and consumers in Europe and North America have very different takes on the issue.

Author: Cäcilia Kruchem

Presenter: Evelyn McClafferty 

Anke Rasper
Anke Rasper Anke is a senior editor with DW's environment team.