A new report claims that the UK’s plans to achieve ‘net zero” by 2050 through removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere are based on the burning of the equivalent of 120 million trees per year.

Net Zero Strategy by the government, which was released October 2021, seeks to capture as much as 58 million tonnes CO2 from burning biomass and pipes it to the North Sea. 

The process of burning trees is considered carbon neutral as the trees that were replanted are then planted again. Therefore, any emissions that have been captured and stored will be counted negatively.

But to create this much carbon, a whopping 32,534,939 tonnes of wood pellets would need to be burned every year, according to a report by The Telegraph — the equivalent of 119,834,572 trees.

Comparatively, New Forest has 46 million trees.

The government's Net Zero Strategy aims to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and relies heavily on bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). This process involves burning wood pellets to create electricity, before the CO2 is separated and piped underground

Net Zero Strategy, which aims to reduce carbon emissions in the UK by zero carbon emission by 2050, heavily relies on bioenergy and carbon capture and storage (BECCS). This involves using wood pellets to produce electricity before any CO2 is extracted and piped underground.

The UK has three major biomass power stations. The largest is Drax in North Yorkshire, which is a re-designed coal power station

Three major UK biomass power plants are available. Drax, a North Yorkshire-based redesigned coal power plant is the largest.

How can biomass emit emissions? 

To generate heat, biomass power plants use straws and wood chips.

The first step in generating emissions is to transport fuel. It can get very expensive if transported long distances. It is also produced further emissions when the fuel is burned. 

The argument of supporters is that the only way to offset this problem is by planting trees, which absorb carbon and burn it later on for more power.

However, critics claim that the process may take many decades or even hundreds of years to complete. This means biomass could not reduce CO2 emissions. 

Net Zero Strategy by the government aims at zero carbon emissions and heavily depends on bioenergy (BECCS).

‘Carbon capture usage and storage can capture CO2 from power generation, hydrogen production, and industrial processes – storing it underground or using it,’ the government explains in its Journey to Net Zero report.

‘This technology also supports negative emissions from engineered greenhouse gas removals – bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and Direct Air Carbon Capture and Storage.’

Because of the growing number of trees that replace the ones being burned, the UK government regards biomass as carbon neutral.

However, wood burning is far more complex than this assumption – with many studies showing that burning wood is often not carbon neutral.

Ember, an independent think tank explained that the Net Zero Strategy was launched last year. Its ability to produce negative emissions depends on how carbon-neutral burning wood is. 

“BECCS” carries the exact same carbon impact risks as wood-burning. 

To create this much carbon, a whopping 32,534,939 tonnes of wood pellets would need to be burned, according to the report - the equivalent of 119,834,572 trees. For comparison, the New Forest currently has an estimated 46 million trees

The report estimates that 32,534,939 tonnes (or 119.834,572) of wood pellets are required to produce this amount of carbon. To compare, New Forest has 46 million trees.

“The ability of BECCS, in other words, to emit negative emissions on the same scale as promised, must be questioned, considering the serious questions about the carbon neutrality status of burning wood. 

The Telegraph has released a new report that analyzes government models to figure out how many biomass power stations will be required to operate.

According to their findings, 58 Million Tonnes of Carbon dioxide must be emitted from power stations chimneys in order for removal to be ‘balanced the books’.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis), told The Telegraph that plans were not final and they did not recognize the ‘characterisation’ of how many trees would be burned.

They stated that Britain needs to produce more domestic power and sustainable biomass was widely considered as a source of renewable, low-carbon energy.

He stated that biomass could be made from other materials than wood, but that no decision was being taken about the use of BECCS.

Ember warns that BECCS will be a costly technology and the cost of the service will fall on energy bill payers. 

“Given the concerns with biomass in power sectors and the uncertainty about the true impact of BECCS on the environment, we should not invest our future or finance in this technology,” it stated.

“The government should not support BECCS on a large scale unless it is proven to have real negative emissions.” 


Theresa May’s government released plans to have the UK become “carbon neutral” by 2050 on June 12, 2019.

Experts are however concerned about how these proposals might work.

This report promises to ensure that emissions from the UK can be offset by taking out the same amount carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

You can do this by either planting more trees, or installing carbon capture technology to reduce the amount of pollution.

Some are afraid that the government will use this option to offset its carbon emissions to countries other than it.

International carbon credits let nations continue emitting carbon while paying for trees to be planted elsewhere, balancing out their emissions.

Some believe that this scheme allows developed countries to avoid their environmental obligations by giving them away to developing and poorer nations.