About 14 entities in Germany and four outside the European country have objected against the importation of Namibian bushwood for use in power and heat plants in Hamburg.
The importation was facilitated by the Transcontinental Biomass Partnership Namibia-Hamburg proposed by the German Development Cooperation GmbH (GIZ).
According to the signatories, the project contradicts the principles approved by Hamburg’s energy network referendum on 22 September 2013. The referendum voted in favour of a “mandatory target of socially just, climate-friendly and democratically controlled energy supply from renewable sources. Importing Namibian bushwood for energy is not climate-friendly”.
This is due not just to the long transport distance but also to the land-use changes in Namibia that would result from the project.
The Hamburg Ministry for Environment and Energy, as well as Wärme Hamburg GmbH (the heat production and distribution company owned by the City of Hamburg) are currently assessing a proposal to import a large quantity of Namibian bushwood for energy generation.
This is based on a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) dated 2 June 2020. The bushwood would be used in heat and power plants in Hamburg, for example in Tiefstack.
Signatories stated that the proposed project is not socially just. They said industrial-scale bushwood harvest in Namibia would create some new jobs but destroy many existing jobs in bushwood removal, as well as small and medium-sized enterprises. “Unemployment is already extremely high in Namibia, and there is no public social security for those unemployed. Corporations based in the global North, on the other hand, would profit from the project by selling machinery and transport vehicles and acquiring resources like wood. The vast majority of gains from the value chain would thus occur outside Namibia. On the other hand, the processing and use of bushwood inside Namibia would create many new jobs,” explained the concerned entities.
According to the timetable set out in the MoU, a public discussion in Hamburg is only expected once an in-principle decision has been made. The referendum vote, however, required democratic control. In Namibia, important stakeholders and civil society have so far not – or have inadequately – been involved in the discussions.
Furthermore, the worried group stretched that the GIZ and the Hamburg Ministry for Environment and Energy (BUKEA) are on the wrong path with this project that they are pursuing. They said the project would involve replacing hard coal, which harms the climate and has highly problematic social impacts with no less problematic use of biomass for energy.
“We demand a rapid transition to a 100% renewable heat system, without the import of biomass from the global South both in Hamburg and elsewhere,” they said.