Tree planting is not always good: the paradox of low-tech Carbon Capture and Storage Strategy in Europe


The European Union is faced with a once in a lifetime challenge when it comes to climate change mitigation. Despite widespread commitment to the Paris Agreement and subsequent EU Green Deal Strategy, the decrease in overall GHG emissions is currently not on path to meet ambitious goals by either 2030 or 2050. It is predicted that some sectors will not be able to transfer to net neutral GHG emissions by 2050 (aviation, concrete, agriculture, etc).  As such it is vital for the European Union to invest in solutions to offset the emissions of those sectors which will not be neutral by 2050.

Trees are natural carbon capture and storage options that are widely available and accessible (Indian Infrastructure, 2020). Around half of the dry weight of a tree is sequestrated carbon. For reference, 38 oak trees can absorb the CO2 emissions of an average car for a 100-year period.

The EU paradox

In its EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, the European Commission stated “that it will propose a dedicated EU Forest Strategy in 2021 in line with our wider biodiversity and climate neutrality ambitions. It will include a roadmap for planting at least 3 billion additional trees in the EU by 2030, in full respect of ecological principles” (COM/2020/380 final). This Forest Strategy is said to be delivered this year.

At a first glance, the EU seems to be highly determined to tackle climate change by investing massively into forests and biodiversity. However, the ambitious plan and its implementation may face three major hurdles: timescale, green washing and monoculture-based forests.


The figures highlighted by the European Commission in 2020 are ambitious to say the least and it is unclear what has been done to meet the goals since then. For reference, planting 3 billion trees in only 10 years is three hundred million a year, or around 800,000 every day. Months after the declaration, when asked about the number of trees planted since May 2020, a spokesperson for the European Commission did not have figures, pointing instead to local counters maintained by some EU regions and member states.

Green washing:

In parallel to the EU Forest Strategy, the European Commission is also working on delivering its green taxonomy rule book that introduces a labelling system for investment that could divert hundreds of billions in funds to industries and companies that win a “sustainable” label for all or part of their activities. With regards to forestry, the rule book draws criticism from environmentalists and scientists alike. According to them, the taxonomy’s forestry criteria are too weak because they classify industrial logging and the burning of trees and crops for energy as ‘sustainable’ investments. This classification was made despite a conclusion drafted by the own European Commission  technical expert group on sustainable Finance (TEF) which recommended not to give a green label to either of these economic activities (technical expert group on sustainable Finance, 2020). This move is likely politically-based rather than science-based according to NGOs. Pascal Canfin (French MEP, Renew Europe) who chairs the European Parliament’s environment committee, confirms’ NGOs’ suspicions: “The NGOs are fundamentally correct: the taxonomy proposals are insufficient in terms of forest protection”. According to him, the taxonomy’s forestry criteria is the result of “colossal” pressure exerted by Sweden and Finland, which rely on biomass for a large share of their energy consumption and have pushed for weaker rules.

 Monoculture-based forests:

There has never been more ambition to plant trees worldwide. For instance, in 2014, 51 countries committed to the Bonn Challenge, a global goal to plant 3.5 km2 of trees, an area slightly larger than India and the 2030 target is likely to be met. However, when digging down into the numbers of these forests 45% of the area pledged by the signing countries is for monoculture plantation which translates to a single species planted over thousands of hectares. Although these can support local economies, plantations are much poorer at storing carbon than are natural forests, which develop with little or no disturbance from humans. The regular harvesting and clearing of plantations releases stored CO2 back into the atmosphere every 10–20 years whereas natural forests that respect local biodiversity continue to sequester carbon for many decades. Furthermore, monoculture such as Eucalyptus only store around 1/40 the CO2 natural forest can capture over the long term. Given the worldwide pledge to carbon neutrality, governments are looking for the carbon neutrality silver bullet.

For instance, Ireland is investing massively in forestry to avoid massive penalties for not complying with EU targets, because the potential CO2 these forests could store in the future are counted as carbon credit today. Although the idea sounds good on paper, the growing forest cover on the island is overwhelmingly a monoculture plantation of conifers. As the goal is to grow these forests as fast as possible, landowners often rely on fertilisers which release large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, doing more harm than good. In addition, conifer plantations are tightly packed, let minimum sunlight through and can harm local biodiversity.


Planting trees is fundamentally a sound way to store large amounts of CO2 in a sustainable and human way. However, monoculture-based plantations to store CO2 are a threat to the very biodiversity international climate goals aim to protect. By logging monoculture forest and then burning the wood, large amounts of greenhouse gases are released in the atmosphere defeating the purpose of carbon capture and storage.

However, solutions exist to truly incorporate forests into carbon neutrality and the preservation of biodiversity: natural forests. Projects such as Green Ethiopia have shown the cascading benefits of turning down the fast-growing monoculture plantation for natural forests. The land is communally owned, and local cooperatives receive benefits for planting trees which prevent them from being harvested. This creates a sense of ownership on the part of the local communities as they strongly participate in planting, managing and conserving the sites, when the crop is strong enough to manage itself, it is left alone so that nature can follow its course.

To keep our temperature increases below 1.5-2°C, we have to get to the roots of the problem — and unfortunately, they run deep. Taking bold action to protect existing forests and reduce current GHG emissions is essential and should receive the same attention as restoration. Renewable energy mix and natural forests have to work hand-in-hand if we want to have a shot at preserving the planet.

This article was written by LPRC’s member Gauthier Quinonez.

AGEO presented at the “Future of Science Communication Conference”

The Future of Science Communication Conference was held on the 24 and 25 June, online. The conference brought together European actors from research and practice of science communication. And LPRC joined to learn and share its views on science communication.

For this event, the LPRC team took the chance to present AGEO. This INTERREG Atlantic project was presented in the poster session of the 25 June, where Ariadna Ortega talked about the project’s tasks and contributions to Science Communication in the Atlantic region and why its results in specific and science communication at large are important.

The AGEO poster for the Future of Science Communication Conference

The presentation can be seen here. AGEO can be discussed until the end of July, so feel free to contribute!

LPRC presents its work during INTERMIN’s Final Conference

The INTERMIN project held its Final Conference on the 22nd of June 2021. The project, set to finish this June, worked on the creation of a network of raw materials training centres.

The final meeting had three main components: 1) presentations of the work done in each Work Package, 2) presentations by project representatives of INTERMIN related EU H2020 funded raw materials projects, 3) a stakeholders’ debate and 4) a discussion on the vision of the future of education and skills in the raw materials sector.

LPRC was a major player of this Final Conference at two moments: first, Luís Lopes presented LPRC’s work done on Work Package 2, in which Skills and competences gaps for the current and future of the raw materials sector were identified.

Luís Lopes (LPRC) presented the results on the skills and competences gaps for the raw materials sector (WP2).

Later, Márcio Tameirão presented the MOBI-US project, which has a clear connection with INTERMIN by using the latter’s skills and competences needs analysis to create MOBI-US mobility pathways according to the demand from the sector. The main objective of MOBI-US project is to set up a structured mobility network between raw materials-related higher education programs in four ESEE institutions (East & South-East Europe), and INTERMIN was an important input in this process, mainly for the role of LPRC in MOBI-US – Mentoring (WP4). Márcio also took part in the stakeholders’ debate, defending the MOBI-US perspective.

Márcio Tameirão (LPRC) presented the MOBI-US project, which has common points with INTERMIN.

Finally, the presentations made by African, North and South American and Asian representatives of the raw materials value chain showed how the skills and gaps in those areas of the globe are evolving.

The next steps include the adminstrative and technical wrap-up of INTERMIN which will take place during the summer, up to the moment of the project’s final review, to be held later in September.

LPRC contributes to the MOBI-US Training event – Part 1

The MOBI-US project has reached one more important milestone on the 18th of June 2021: the successful conclusion of MOBI-US Training event, Part 1. The objective of this online meeting was to gather representatives of other faculties and universities that offer raw materials-related higher education programs – from the ESEE region – to present some of MOBI-US’ results. The talks also mentioned the lessons learned, best-practices, and the guidelines that the consortium elaborated for an effective implementation of student mobilities. The main idea is to support and foster the development of more mobility programs and projects in the region, which will strengthen the higher education in this sector.

The MOBI-US training banner.

One of the speakers of the event was LPRC’s Luís Lopes who provided a presentation on “Competence criteria for raw materials programs, lessons from the INTERMIN project”. The talk covered the important role of education due to the uptake of new technologies, methods and tools that are used in the raw materials value chain, in order to build a stronger workforce that is adapted to the current and future market needs in the sector. In addition, he provided the main conclusions from the foresight analysis that LPRC conducted during the INTERMIN Project, presenting the skills and competences gaps in the mining sector.

Luís Lopes presenting the results of the foresight analysis of skills and competences gaps for the raw materials sector.

A total of 54 attendees had the opportunity to learn and interact with the presenters from MOBI-US consortium, as well as the guest speakers. The talks generated interest and engagement with the audience, which are crucial for the uptake of further cooperation between institutions and – consequently – the development of more mobility opportunities.

MOBI-US project – Join the Training Staff event!

On the 18th June 2021 the MOBI-US project will host a training event – online – specially dedicated to representatives of faculties and universities in the ESEE (East & South-East Europe) region that offer raw materials-related master’s programs.

The main purpose of the first part of the training is to transfer the knowledge and experiences acquired by the consortium during the MOBI-US project, focusing on the guidelines and preparation procedures to set up a structured mobility network between institutions, considering the demand in skills to fulfill the industry needs. In addition, the consortium will present the achievements within the project. The overall content of the event will be the following:

  • Achievements of the first year of the MOBI-US project
  • Benefits and issues in setting up a structured mobility at your HEI
  • Skills and competences required by the raw materials sector
  • Student mobility options and competence needs in the post-COVID period

In addition, guest speakers will provide insights on the changes and adaptations that the post-COVID world will potentially face. The context will be focused on student mobility, raw materials policy, and changes in the skills and competence requirements in the raw materials sector:

  1. Márton Beke, Tempus Public Foundation: Structure and options for the future of student mobilities
  2. Vitor Correia, INTRAW (International Raw Materials Observatory): Expected changes in the competence requirements for education programs in the raw materials sector post-COVID
  3. Manuel Regueiro, IGME (Geological and Mining Institute of Spain): Changes in the EU raw materials policy post-COVID

After the presentations and discussions, the participants will receive a “homework” to be completed over the summer and presented in the second part of the Training event in September 2021. This follow-up will work around using the insights and tools acquired during the first event to check the internal resources of their home institutions to be able to offer mobility opportunities to students – administration, staff, facilities, and more.

The objective of the Training event (parts 1 and 2) is to support and foster the uptake of structured mobility opportunities for students in ESEE institutions, to strengthen the higher education in raw materials in the region through cooperation.


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LPRC joins the Baseload Capital Online Seminar #3: Geothermal and Risks (part 2)

Drilling risks

The key to the economies of scale in geothermal is to reduce uncertainty whilst drilling linked to poorly known geology. On average, 66% of deep geothermal drillings are successful. This low rate can be explained by the uncertainty of geothermal drilling. A profitable geothermal field, on paper, may not translate to real profitable margins. There is a risk that the well fails on the first heat up or that there is a delayed failure due to the formation environment like the presence of corrosive fluids. When a failure occurs, the loss of production and cost of repair can be quite significant compared with the cost of completing the well. Current technologies offer two solutions to drilling risks:  horizontal wells and drilling deeper:

  1. Horizontal wells do not rely on a limited amount of energy stored within the direct vicinity of a vertical well. A horizontal well can be drilled for thousands of meters in the ideal reservoir alleviating the risk of a colder spot and thus reducing the risks of an unproductive well.
  2. The other solution is to drill deeper in basement rock. This method aims at using hot dry rock at depth to produce heat. At high depth (more than 5000m), the rock layers become more consistent thus creating more certainty whilst drilling. In addition, deeper wells tap into warmer rocks thus producing high temperature for a more profitable process.

NIMBY (not in my backyard): stories from the field

Even if economically sound, a geothermal project can be cancelled if local communities oppose it. In Taiwan, Baseload Capital faced a challenge: Initially favorable to geothermal energy, local turned against the project when they witness the noise, dust and smell caused by the drillings. The problem lied in miscommunication between the company in the communities. Communities had a lack of knowledge vis-à-vis geothermal power, in addition they were afraid that the power plant would bring harm such as water depletion and pollution. Given the relative remoteness of the local communities, there was also a distrust of a company they had never seen before.

Although these problematics can seem futile to people with deep understanding in geothermal, it is necessary to take a step back and listen to these divergent opinions. Without this, a project can very quickly create massive backlash and even be cancelled. Based on this, a geothermal project shall generally follow the following steps when dealing with local communities:

  1. Become trustworthy: Outline clearly the how the project will work at meetings with locals. Never take anything for granted and act on your promises.
  2. Be respectful of local communities by being present when they have questions, arranged face-to-face meetings, listen to their concerns, learn about the local cultures and respect local habits.
  3. Be transparent. Being transparent is vital to earn trust. This can be performed by hosting local hearing to understand complains and misconceptions. These meetings should always be about dialogue and never be one-sided. It is also important to show progress and discuss future plans.
  4. Get involved in the local community be celebrating events with them. Geothermal should have a strong community focus in its operation (using hot water for local businesses and ensuring that the plant will create jobs locally. Any geothermal project shall participate to the local economy and be an active member of the society.


The Covid-19 pandemic showed how quickly the market can adapt to new needs. Within a year time, millions of masks, PPE and vaccines have been produced to respond to a disease that can affect us all. Climate affect us all too. The real risk of climate action, the one we are all confronted is inaction. Inaction in the climate transition will threaten biodiversity, as habitats and lives become endangered. We need to act, and we need to act fast.

Geothermal energy involves taking risks. However, as shown in this article these risks can be alleviated if projects are managed in a transparent and responsible manner. The battle will be won or loss in the next decade. If we fail to transition to a sustainable global economy, it is estimated that global GDP will plumet by 11%. However, if we succeed it will rise by 4%, showcasing a bright light at the end of a challenging time.

LPRC joins the Baseload Capital Online Seminar #3: Geothermal and Risks (part 1)

On the 3rd June 2021, Baseload Capital (Swedish investment bank specialised in sustainable energy) hosted its 3rd online seminar session of the year, this time on risks within the geothermal industry. Specifically, the day’s session tackled risks across various inter-linked topics: environmental risks, drilling and social acceptance.

Environmental risks

Environmental risks although real can be either overrated or underrated based on preconceptions or past assessment which do not hold in the current state-of-the art. The first environmental risk assessed was the one linked to CO2 in geothermal: whilst green and sustainable, geothermal power plants may emit CO2. The reason for the leakage of these quantities of gases emitted from geothermal power plants aren’t due to power production because there’s no combustion. These gases are naturally present in the rock basement, minor constituents of most geothermal reservoirs. The importance of this risk varies greatly from one region of the globe to the other as well as the technology involved. Furthermore, naturally emitted CO2 is poorly regulated worldwide despite available CO2 leakage solutions exist such as binary plants (see figure below). The trend in the industry is to reach carbon neutrality thanks to binary geothermal power plants that have basically zero CO2 emissions during the production process. On a positive note, the average non-binary geothermal power plant releases between 100 and 120 grams of CO2/KWh whereas fossil fuel plants release between 1000 and 1500 grams of CO2/KWh.

The second type of environmental risk boils down to thermal well stimulation and induced seismicity. The scientific consensus around thermal well stimulation is that this is nowadays an overrated risk. It is a quick and effective way of injecting cold water into a hot geothermal well which leads to contraction of fractures and allows the permeability to be recognised. Most deep geothermal wells make use of that methods to great effect with minimal risk. Other well stimulation methods involve acid stimulation (either hydrofluoric or hydrochloric acid) of a reservoir and have to be handle with great care. Although suffering from a bad reputation, this acid gets neutralised in the basic environment of the reservoir (calcite veins and fractures) rendering it harmless whilst improving the productivity of the well. The other more dangerous aspect of situation is induced seismicity or fracking. This risk has to be taken with the most care and has the snowball effect of introducing fear in population leading to less geothermal project, thus less green development.

Figure: Geothermal plant scheme

LPRC at #vEGU21 – overview

La Palma Research Centre took part at this year’s EGU General Assembly, an online event, where it presented six projects where it is involved in.

For this year, EGU2021 worked differently: presenters had the chance to briefly present their research/project in 2 minutes. After this, presenters were divided between breakout rooms where discussion with the session’s participants could take place. Find our views and more information on each of our presentation below:

ENGIE (Session EOS5.1 – Promoting and supporting equality, diversity and inclusion in the geosciences)

  • Abstract & Information
  • Number of attendes: 70
  • Impressions: The sessions was held via zoom, but no break out rooms were possible. Nevertheless links were established with a few similar initiatives (such as E.D.I.G).

CROWDTHERMAL (Session ERE2.5 – Exploration, utilization and monitoring of conventional and unconventional geothermal resources)

  • Abstract & Information
  • Number of attendes: 70
  • Impressions: 1 person came to the breakout session and asked a few questions & comments: good to focus on the concerns of the public vis-a-vis geothernmal and looking forward to see the results of citizen participation in geothermal via financing.

PRO-ACT (Session PS6.4 – Analogue research and data analysis supporting and preparing lunar and planetary space missions)

  • Abstract & Information
  • Number of attendes: 50
  • Impressions: 5 people joined the breakout room discussion to enquire about the technical aspects of the PRO-ACT project. Some links were made with the attendees for a future follow-up of the activities.

UNEXUP (Session ERE5.4 – Mineral exploration for the XXI Century)

  • Abstract & Information
  • Number of attendes: 45
  • Impressions: Held a short discussion on the UX-1 robots development.

ROBOMINERS (Session ERE5.4 – Mineral exploration for the XXI Century)

  • Abstract & Information
  • Number of attendes: 45
  • Impressions: Short discussions on the current stage of development of the robot-miner (design, test sites) and next steps.

AGEO (Session NH9.11 – Risk and Resilience at the Science-Policy-Practice Interface)

  • Abstract & Information
  • Number of attendes: 77
  • Impressions: 5 people came to the breakout room to discuss the project ideas.

Until the end of May, you will still be able to have a look at the uploaded project material – just click on the project links above! #sharing #knowledge

LPRC projects at EGU 2021

This year, following the company’s tradition to present its projects at the EGU General Assembly – 2017, 2019 and 2020 -, LPRC will present and discuss five projects on this year’s edition. Due to the travel and health restrictions in place the event will be held online.

The EGU 2021 event (#vEGU21) will host presentations in a unique style: each abstract will be given a 2-minute timeslot  to make a quick presentation based on a 1-slide presentation. After that, participants can enter chat rooms to discuss the abstract and the presentations with the authors.

Below you can find the projects and materials that LPRC will present during the EGU 2021 online event:

Feel free to have a look at the projects and materials provided and join the discussion at the given times – science is for everyone!

Environmental evaluation of a Geothermal Power Plant in the Southern German Molasse Basin by a Life Cycle Analysis

On the 26th March 2021, ENERCHANGE and ThinkGeoEnergy hosted a new episode of their recurring Focus on Geothermal – Energy for the Weekend event this time focused on Life Cycle Assessment of Geothermal Energy to raise public acceptance based on a German Case Study.

Geothermal Energy and social acceptance

The webinar highlighted the competitive disadvantage of geothermal energy compared to other energy sources due to public opinion. Despite of its green potential and output advantages (baseload capacity, long lifetime of operation and wide accessibility), geothermal is often perceived a harmful energy source by general public.

According to the present case study and similar past conclusion of experts, the roots of poor social acceptance performances of geothermal energy lie in poor communication of geothermal green capacities compared to other energy sources both fossil and green. The German team hosting the event suggested that a clear demonstration of the green output of geothermal energy could outweigh negative initial views on the technology. In addition, the team believes that a strict environmental monitoring of geothermal power plants is necessary to showcase transparency, accountability and good faith of geothermal developers. To that end, the team proposed that geothermal projects shall establish a thorough Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of their operations from exploration to decommission to monitor CO2 emissions and take measures if levels are abnormally high.

Life Cycle Assessment for geothermal projects

A Life cycle assessment is a technique to assess environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product’s life, spanning from raw material extraction through materials processing, manufacture, distribution, and use.

Possible considerations of a Life Cycle Assessment for Geothermal plants.

Based on this new operational framework for a Life Cycle Assessment in geothermal, 3 steps have to be taken into account when assessing geothermal power plants:

  • Drilling geothermal wells require energy (often electricity) whose origin (fossil v. renewable) has to be taken into account. Furthermore, building a plant requires, raw materials, transport and auxiliary energy. All of which have a carbon footprint. The total energy demand for input will be accounted for in the calculation of the environmental impact of a project.
  • The same principle applies for the output of a station. Whilst the electricity produced by a geothermal power plant might be 100% clean, it bears the limitations of transport of raw materials for construction and the building of the plant itself.
  • Finally, it is necessary to ensure that refrigerant used in geothermal turbines shall not leak which would have a detrimental impact on the environment. One way to ensure transparency and maintenance of high safety standards throughout the lifetime of a geothermal plant is to enforce environmental monitoring. Said monitoring shall be available to the public to showcase the good performance of geothermal energy which would then improve social acceptance of the technology once the public sees for itself that geothermal has great versatility coupled with high environmental standards.