According to the RSPB and Friends of the Earth recent EU laws mean that biomass – woodchippings and other organic material – will increasingly be used as fuel in power stations and much of this will be imported.

They believe much of this material will be shipped into Britain from North America, Europe and the Far East as a result of massive felling of wildlife rich forests.

“Wildlife receives no protection from this report,” said RSPB director of conservation Mark Avery.

“This is a green light for European countries to adopt biomass as an environmentally friendly alternative to coal in their power stations, but the reality is very different.

“The report says current biomass sources in the EU are sustainable, but the EU’s failure to provide standards means this is far from guaranteed.

“Failing to provide safeguards will be a driver for natural forests to be felled and replaced with fast growing commercial plantations, with devastating impacts on biodiversity.

Friends of the Earth’s executive director, Andy Atkins, said: “Allowing forests to be sacrificed to allow a massive increase in biomass production would be a disaster.

“Biomass has a limited role to play in developing a cleaner future – but strict rules are needed to ensure it doesn’t have a damaging impact on communities and the environment.

“The UK Government should focus on developing the UK’s vast renewable energy potential, such as solar power and wind energy.”

Luke Walsh

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