Denmark Excludes Burnt Trees in Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Accredited to “Pöllö”/Wikimedia Commons.

Researchers from numerous countries have revealed that the Nordic nation of Denmark has not been including the burning of biomass in its Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions reports.

By Cameron Taylor and Samuel Hill

Over the past few years, Denmark has made a strong effort to become a global leader in the fight against climate change. 

The country does not implement taxes on electric cars and many of its big cities, such as Aarhus, have plans to ban plastic bottles from being manufactured. However, it has recently been revealed that the country has not been including the burning of trees and other forms of biomass in its CO2 emissions reports.

“According to several international researchers, that’s exactly what Denmark’s doing when it maintains that the burning of wood… is CO2 neutral.” Christian W. of The Copenhagen Post recently wrote in an article. “A recent survey showed that close to 80 percent of Danes believed wind power was their country’s primary green energy source,” Christian W continues.

The energy produced from the burning of biomass forms the country’s largest source of ‘green’ energy.

Old ideas in a new age

It was believed back in the 1990s that burning biomass was a form of green energy, but the CO2 emitted from the process was thought to have been absorbed by living plants which would have made the overall process carbon neutral.

Simon Engfred Larsen, an Advisor at the International Department of the Danish Ministry of Climate, Energy and Utilities, was interviewed as a source however has requested to not be quoted in an article. He did, however, acknowledge that a careful balance needs to be struck in order to make the carbon neutral.

Many researchers believe that Denmark has not been striking this balance and have subsequently criticised the Nordic nation.

Countries such as Sweden are also known to burn biomass as produce energy, even surpassing Denmark in regards to the amount of energy produced. However, Denmark does things a little differently than Sweden, who almost exclusively burns from their own forests, while  Denmark outsources a majority of the wood it burns from other countries such as the United States.

Denmark and the Paris Agreement

Denmark ratified the Paris Agreement in November of 2017. It was one of 195 countries to sign the agreement back in December of 2015.

However, experts say that if Denmark and other world countries wish to achieve their Paris Agreement obligations, biomass will have to “become a huge element”.

“The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.” the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC, wrote. 

The agreement also seeks “to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

The new Social Democratic government led by Mette Frederiksen has pledged a far stronger commitment to tackling climate change than her Venstre predecessors.

“The new government pledged to introduce binding decarbonisation goals and strengthen its 2030 target to reduce emissions by 70% below the 1990 level,” Chloé Farand wrote in Climate Home News shortly after the Frederiksen administration was formed. “The current target is 40%.”

The Danish wing of Greenpeace was reached out to via email for their thoughts on the issue, however, they failed to comment.

 This story is written for Danish and international readers who are curious on Denmark’s progress on climate change. It could be published on The New York Times or Politiken.