The event brought together scientists, experts, politicians and environmentalists.
The way we produce and consume our energy today poses a number of risks. Air pollution takes more and more victims every year. The energy poverty in the region is growing, hence there is a risk of increasing the unsustainable use of forest wood for heating. However, additional pressure on forests would mean another severe blow to biodiversity. To prevent the risks associated with the increased use of forest biomass for energy purposes, WWF, Habitat for Humanity and partners are working to limit its additional demand and to supply alternatives.
Photo: © WWF Bulgaria
In this regard, the WWF offices in Central and Eastern Europe together with Habitat for Humanity in Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary, the Regional Center for Energy Policy Research (REKK) and the Energy Agency – Plovdiv held a regional conference dedicated to “Biomass and a just transition”. The event took part in Sofia, Bulgaria and focused on forest biomass policies and their use for energy in the European Union and in the region of Central and Eastern Europe. It provided an opportunity for exchange of experience, discussions and awareness raising on a topic that is still a little known in our country.
The conference was attended by politicians, experts and scientists from Bulgaria and the region, as well as representatives of the non-governmental and public sectors. The event was personally opened by Bulgarian Minister of Environment and Water Borislav Sandov.
“If we do not have a certification on the wood, it means that we are burning some bad quality wood with more humidity. Which means air pollution for the citizens. Today the statistic is dramatic, especially for Bulgaria, especially for Sofia. Thousands of people are dying on earlier phase of life, because of the air pollution. Even the governments are ambitious enough, if the non-governmental sector, the business and the citizens do not change their everyday activities and livelihood, we cannot achieve the targets”,said Bulgarian Minister of Environment and Water Borislav Sandov.
The participants reviewed the criteria for the sustainability of biomass and gave their recommendations for its effective utilization in the member states. The conference also focused on the practical dimensions of the use of biomass for energy purposes. Special attention was paid to an important problem that is becoming increasingly worrying in the region – the energy poverty.
WWF experts shared the results of a survey conducted among households heating with wood. It aimed to establish living conditions, energy investments, the degree of dependence on firewood, as well as the possibility of heating their homes.
“Unfortunately, energy poverty is a reality here, and the most vulnerable households, especially those outside the heating cities, rely on solid fuel and biomass, burned with inefficient appliances in unrenovated homes. At WWF, we believe that in addition to energy aid, long-term measures are needed for a real and ecologically sustainable energy transition, which would allow households to receive affordable green energy and at the same time save the forests. We hope that in the near future there will be political will and institutional support for these decisions”, commented Diana Dimitrova, conservation director of WWF Bulgaria.
The survey also shows that 38% of Bulgarian households have at least one room in their home that they do not use due to inability to heat. About half of these households have invested in wall and window insulation, and see electricity as a possible alternative to firewood. On average, households in Bulgaria buy 12 m3 of wood per season, which costs them about 900 leva. 46% of the surveyed households understand that the pollution of the environment by burning wood is a serious problem, but they find it the cheapest way to heat.
On the second day of the conference, Mincho Benov, National Director of Habitat Bulgaria, presented ways to support municipalities to alleviate the dependence on the use of firewood among the low-income local communities.
See the in-person conference program here: “Biomass and a just transition”
The conference is organized within the BioScreen CEE and LIFE Bio-Balance projects.