The European Union is relying heavily on burning forest biomass to meet its carbon emissions goals. And now it’s facing a legal challenge that’s sure to ignite debate on what it really means for an energy source to be renewable and carbon neutral.

Plaintiffs from six different countries have challenged the EU’s treatment of forest biomass as a renewable fuel with a suit in European General Court. The plaintiffs have set up a website detailing the lawsuit, with backing from the Center for Climate Integrity.

The EU’s revised Renewable Energy Directive (known as RED II) raised its target for renewable energy consumption to 32 percent by 2030. RED II agreed to count biomass toward those goals, as long as it met certain sustainability criteria.

The plaintiffs all claim to be impacted by biomass energy production. Coming from Estonia, Ireland, France, Romania, Slovakia, and the U.S., they see things a different way, arguing that:

“RED II will accelerate widespread forest devastation and significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions by not counting CO2 emissions from burning wood fuels. Wood-fired power plants emit more CO2 per unit of energy generated than coal plants, but RED II counts these emissions as zero. The treatment of forest biomass as low or zero–carbon renewable energy in both RED I and RED II has and will continue to increase harvesting pressure on forests in Europe and North America to meet the growing demand for woody biomass fuel in the EU.”

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