Trend Asia: Biomass carbon-neutral claims questioned, allegedly a greenwashing front

Jakarta – Trend Asia disputes the carbon-neutral claims of the biomass co-firing program promoted by PLN, instead potentially serving as a greenwashing front for the coal and forestry industries, with significant carbon emissions and a major deforestation threat.

A study by Trend Asia found that the carbon-neutral claims of the co-firing program are unfounded.
Carbon emissions are still generated from deforestation for Energy Forest Plantation (HTE) and biomass burning.

According to PLN, throughout 2023, PLN has absorbed 1 million tons of biomass for 43 PLTUs spread across the country. This figure grew more than 71% compared to the realisation of biomass absorption in 2022, which amounted to 585 thousand tons. Simultaneously, PLN will continue to test this technology until 2025 so all 52 PLTUs in Indonesia can use co-firing.

Threat of deforestation and land conflicts

Meanwhile, Trend Asia’s study shows that 2.33 million hectares of land are needed for HTE, equivalent to 35 times the size of Jakarta, to supply co-firing power plants. This will trigger deforestation and land conflicts.

Asia Trend’s Biomass Program Manager Amalya Reza Oktaviani said that the energy transition through woody biomass is a greenwashing action that benefits coal and forestry corporations. Emissions from biomass show that biomass is not an option for clean energy transition.

“This is an opportunity for corporations to expand and increase land tenure inequality. The energy transition should exclude false solutions like biomass and encourage renewable energy from communities,” Amalya said.

Deforestation and licensing data

Forest Watch Indonesia (FWI) data shows 420,000 ha of natural forest planned to be destroyed for HTE in 31 concessions. South Kalimantan is targeted with 76,567 ha of new plantation permits, and the FoLU Net Sink 2030 threatens 397,511 ha of natural forest in South Kalimantan.

FWI Advocacy and Media Campaign Manager Anggi Putra Prayoga said that developing plantation forests, including HTE, tends to trigger deforestation. The existence of forests should be maintained, considering their vital role in carbon absorption to achieve a net sink in 2030.

“The strategy of reducing emissions through the development of Energy Plantation Forests to meet the needs of wood biomass production will encourage massive deforestation of natural forests,” said Anggi.

Furthermore, to achieve the 2030 net sink target from the FoLU (forest and land use) sector, it should build a mitigation strategy to protect natural forests that various parties can recognise. One of them is stopping the development of plantation forests, including HTE.

On the contrary, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry has facilitated nine companies’ “red-carpet” licensing for land acquisition for HTE, thus encouraging deforestation from expanding forestry companies. (Hartatik)

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